Last night, I took that romantic walk on the beach with Ziggy Marley singing into my ears. Once the perfect bench came into sight, I needed to relieve my sore feet. As mesmerized as I was, a selfie was in order. The lady on the next bench down laughs and kindly offers to take a picture. She was with a man who played guitar and chatted with the odd one out: Keith. Keith is one of the many homeless people in Honolulu, Hawaii. And you know what? I had a great time unfolding his story along with newly found friends.
As for Keith, he claims to not once having picked up anything from the trashcan. He receives government subsidies in order to buy medications for his Parkinson’s condition, schizophrenia and the spastic nerve in his thigh. I think he had a thing for photography. Every time someone walked by the scenic area we were in, as friendly as he is, Keith offered to take a picture. He had good intentions, but people nonetheless vaguely smiled, turned around and walked faster. What these sprinters don’t realize is that the homeless are the ones with the most unique of stories.
Why do we curb around homeless people when we see them? We do everything in our power to avoid possibly exchanging any words or physical contact. Are we afraid they’re going to bite us? They become especially apparent when there aren’t many people around. Here in Waikiki, they sleep right across the Mariott, Hyatt and Hilton next to shiny BMW’s. It’s impossible to ignore. But when in crowded places we barely notice them.
On Saint Patrick’s Day in Hartford, Connecticut this year, I noticed the flipside of the vast drinking event. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. This day is cash day for the homeless who return the neglected empty beer bottles and cans on the ground. I spotted some that walked around with large trash bags collecting the goldmines as they were thrown on the ground. And don’t forget the trashcans that are filled t the top with valuable goods! Our days of holidays are their days of work.
I urge you to treat these people in the most human way possible. They will be forever grateful for a simple dialogue. Keith thanked me 10 times just for talking to him. Give them a chance, there are so many things you can learn from people who don’t have a permanent residence and money to splurge on.
My friends Erica, Keith and Jay.