I walk along a sunlit Bowery, littered with people on late morning coffee runs and hurried dog walks, freshly fallen leaves in reds and golds and oranges, and then the not-so-fresh leaves speckled with candy wrappers and the occasional lost glove, cars honking: the day is beginning.
I pass a coffee shop on the next corner (could use a cold-brew iced coffee), but I remind myself that I’m on a mission. I keep walking on to campus, caffeine craving abetted.
Then I see the man. He sits on the street, tattered blankets curled around his head, hair messy (its colour indistinguishable), his morning snooze interrupted by life’s reality. He holds a sign: “Help me, please. God bless you.” He is tired, but he smiles as I turn up my phone’s volume to fill my head with the lilting melodies of Ed Sheeran, head down, eyes on the cracks embedded in the concrete. Don’t make eye contact, I tell myself.
I reassure myself and walk: I am not hard-hearted, I am not cold, I am compassionate and empathetic and generous and kind. But I quickly forget the encounter, any piteous self-indulging arguments: a friend calls, and it is time to make plans for the evening. We’ll be going to this cheese & chocolate fondue place in the West Village. Meet at 8? No. After class? Alright.
Matthew 25:42-43: “For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink. I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.”
Now, I sit within the confines of my Christmas-light-lit Manhattan apartment. It is warm, my belly is full, my eyes start to flutter as I climb under the warm duvet that I will fully give myself to for the next seven hours.
Rewind and repeat.