Two Homeless Fellows (#183) 01-07-13

I met two homeless men in Savannah, within an hour of each other. The adjective “homeless” implies a similarity, a commonality, as if they were brothers. But in brief encounters, the men could not have been more different. OK, I’ll get this out of the way first: one was Caucasian and the other was African American. So one is black and the other is white, but that is not the difference that I am talking about.

Al was walking on a city street when I stopped him and asked a favor. I explained my project and he gave a chuckle. He said, “Me?” I said. “Sure, why not you?” He smiled and said to go ahead and shoot.

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Ryan was sitting on a low wall. When I approached him and asked my usual favor. He shrugged his shoulders, just stared ahead for a few seconds and said “OK, I guess.” Then he asked if I could “help him” a bit, and held out his hand. Prepared for this eventuality, I put a little something in it. Ryan had just come to Savannah from Philadelphia, winters are harsh there. As I clicked away, Ryan never quite looked at me.

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After five minute encounters, the differences were pretty obvious. Al considers himself a participant in life, such as it is and mental lives in the present. Ryan considers himself a victim of life, and mentally lives either in the past or the future. Homelessness means different things to different people.