Man On The Corner
by: Anne Sleeman
How cool is that modern culture provides us with times designated for reflection, awareness and prevention of certain topics that affect us as a society as a whole. So, in that, and in the wake of national bully awareness month, I offer a story that touched my heart. A story of a man, whom I met for such a brief moment in time, but who impacted my soul forever. In moving though life, it is so important to foster tolerance within yourself, and more importantly to teach and foster those good feelings to your children to help bring about a better world for tomorrow.
Think for a moment: What are you doing to make your life and those whose lives you touch just a little bit better?
To follow is an excerpt from “Man on the Corner” a true story:
It was a drizzly cool evening in Portland Maine. I had been to the gym and then to the grocery store, nothing special of a night, fairly routine. Stopped at a red-light my eyes were drawn to the thin, disheveled man who appeared to be about my age standing in the rain holding a “homeless, please help sign”. Now, please know, I do not always give money to those peddling on the corner, but at times, I do. I received $2.00 change from the store, and I think due to the less than favorable conditions, decided to give the $2.00 to the man on the corner. Now, I know some of you are immediately judging: don’t enable him, he’s a bum, he’s just going to buy booze or drugs, why can’t he get a job himself. I flagged him down, handed him my $2.00 while muttering an apology “sorry, man, that’s all I have” after a brief exchange of “God bless you”, funny, isn’t it, how you always seem to get God’s blessing when you give money to a street peddler. The man then said ”thanks, it’s all I need for the night. But I think I’m going to try for $3.00 more so I can grab a pouch of tobacco” Again, I know some of you are passing judgment and clearly my own judgment resonated on my face as his toothless mouth muttered “It’s better than buying crack”. My face clearly must have had a middle class suburbanite look of horror, but, the man on the corner, felt the need to tell me more. “I’m totally serious. I was fed that $#&^ from the time I was four until I was 17, and no lie, I was allergic to the $#&^”. An odd pause, our eyes met, how can someone with my aforementioned suburbanite upbringing possibly understand? And what do you say? So, I asked “was it given to you by your Mom or your Dad?” The man’s eyes became glassed over as he explained that his mom tried for years and years to gain custody, “she fought so hard to get me. It was my son of a bitch father. He pumped that $#&^ into me”. Another awkward pause makes our conversation halt. ”Is he still around?” I ask. ”NO, he doesn’t live in this state anymore. A couple of years ago I laid into him with a baseball bat. Yup, just started bashing his head in as hard as I could with a bat.” The man pauses, breathes deeply, staring off into the horizon. “But, I failed that mission. I failed that mission bad. Then he beat the f—ing $#&^ out of me so bad, and left me for dead. After that, the son of a bitch left the state. I haven’t seen him, thank God, for a couple of years now”. The traffic light turned green. I wanted to stay and hear more. The cars behind me starting honking. So, I drove off.
The conversation replayed in my head over and over as I drove home. Odd to encounter this man, I thought at the onset of what we now call national bully awareness month. We all have our own story and our own path. Based on our upbringing and life experiences we all hold within us, whether we choose to admit it or not, biases and prejudices. Whether those prejudices are for the homeless man, the obese person on the news whose video response to a cruel email went viral earlier that day, the queer person, the persons of different religious beliefs. Some have prejudices on people with different skin color, race, socioeconomic status, the kid in the band, the kid in the play, the gothic girl and the list goes on and on. Is bullying more prevalent now? Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps we are just more aware of more stories from more areas. We cannot help what our thoughts have been and who or what groups we have been less than kind to. All we can do is in moving forward know that everyone has their own story. Before we judge, take a step back and think, what would have happened if those were my circumstances. I think instead of focusing on not bullying, we should instead focus on trying to understand, and trying to be nice to each other…no matter how hard that may seem.
Before you lash out in judgment ask yourself: What are you doing to make your life and those whose lives you touch just a little bit better? Cheers.
Anne Sleeman is the President and co-founder of Kids On Time, essential tools for co-parenting. She knew her life changed forever when she met and married her husband Joe, and became step-mom to his two children. Anne’s new found role of step-mom, friend, confident and role model led her to self-awareness and personal growth as she undertook the most important role of her life: Step-mom. Anne’s personal tag line for step-parents everywhere is that being a step-parent needs to be viewed as a privilege, not as a right. Anne is beyond proud of the co-parenting tools that she has co-created. Knowing that taking a wellness approach, as opposed to a litigation approach is viewed by some as outside the box. Anne is excited to offer her stories and expertise to all parents, step, blended and otherwise. Anne’s website is :www.kidsontime.com. Follow Anne on Twitter: @KidsOnTime and on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/mykidsontime