Unconventional Empathy

Be Me.

Sitting in Starbucks. All by your lonesome. Not a care in the world, cruising on some work related things while sippin on an Iced Americano. Situated in a corner, next to a dark window, you sit listening to Trap Back Jumpin at the recommendation of a good friend. Thinking about life, trying to organize your thoughts on a blog post that seems to be going alright.

Out of the corner of your eye comes a man. A man who stands outside in the moist Hawaiian heat. Looks to be hard on his luck.

He stands adjacent to you and the window after setting down his bag of goodies…there seems to be a water bottle, a bag of ice and some other random things that are helping him make it through the day. Looks a little rough, seems dehydrated and somewhat defeated.

As he sets down his bag, you see him go for his pants. Ok, he’s readjusting.

He’s got a pair of old jeans on. His belt buckle is not at all a belt buckle, it’s that piece of trash bag that allows you to cinch it all together to keep it nice and tight once you fill the bag to the brim. The back of his jeans are adorned with a stain on the backside, a stain you only have nightmares of seeing on your own.

Wait a second. He’s undoing his pants.

You look around Starbucks frantically. To see if anyone else sees what you’re seeing. It’s freaking you out. This dude, dropping trow. No way he’s really doing it. Of all the places to go, why here? Why now?

He’s definitely doing it.

As you catch a glimpse of his board shorts beneath the brown stained pants, you search around the store, see if others are noticing. You have half a mind to yell and scream at the Starbucks employees to get this guy away from you as fast as possible. The filth, the stained shorts, the awful condition this man is placing you in…you and him linked together as if he chose to share this moment with you.

He whips it out and you turn your body to block your own vision and decide to sprint to the bathroom yourself.

After a minute, you walk back out to your chair. He is facing the other way with a stain  on the sidewalk leading into the street. You sit. You think. You want to tell the employees. You want to discuss what just happened. You want to tell everyone that this guy just took a leak outside YOUR window and how disgusted you are.

2 seconds later, you take a deep breath.

You put yourself in his shoes.

You see his eyes. Worn and fatigued, you bring yourself to look at him. What do you think he is worried about?

Some semi-adult stressing over having just seen a grown man urinate on the street? No way. Is he worried about the way he looks to others having worn a pair of jeans so stained that it hurts to do anything but hold your breath when you walk by? No way in hell. Do you think he is stressing over the fact that his entire life resides in the contents of that plastic bag from the grocery store? No.

Not at all. He’s worried about his next meal. Or his family that he’s missing. Or that he doesn’t know where he is sleeping tonight. This guy has far greater fish to fry in this world than the small spurt of anxiety and discomfort he created for you.

Initially, I wanted to make jokes and laugh about it. I wanted to tell a story about this guy and what happened while drinking my coffee at Starbucks. But after thinking about it, it really wasn’t funny.

poorman

There was a man behind that window and today he taught me a lesson.

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