I like meeting people. Hearing their stories. Hearing where they’re at. There’s a lot in this world that I don’t understand, a lot that I can’t pretend to understand or even pretend to be able to reason with. Why nice, friendly people cannot find jobs because they have an intellectual disability and are therefore on compensation. Why, because these people cannot get jobs, they have to receive meals at the Salvation Army, because their disability pay will not provide to make sure they have enough to eat, yet a decent job will not hire a person like Michael, with an intellectual disability.
I live in a world where my only glimpse into a soup kitchen is what I have seen on TV, my only knowledge of the Salvation Army is what I have heard through the media. It is in my community, but it is still so distant. I live in a world where there is food in my cupboard and my cell phone is on a contract. I live in a world where I know where I will sleep the next night.
Michael does not. I met Michael on a bus early this evening. He told Tara and I a bit of his story. He shook our hands several times. We talked about our cell phones and how he was headed to Burger King after being at the Salvation Army. “Man Food” I called it—he laughed and agreed. Because he realized that Burger King was not a healthy meal, but it is what he can afford on governmental disability pay that provides enough calories for sustinence.
I sit beside this man who likely has but a few dollars in his pocket. When I sit with my friend beside me, a jacket and scarf on; an iPod in my pocket and Bose earphones in my ears and a cell phone in my hand; a large backpack on my knee–filled with electronics—a laptop, a Flip video camera, a second pair of shoes, and additional warm clothing. Material things of the world which I love but do not require to survive.
I am so grateful for the life I live and love.
Michael is very similar to the rest of us, and Michael wants nothing but friendship from me—to learn my name, to know a little about me, as I now know of him. In a fifteen minute conversation on a bus with him, I got a small glimpse into the world of someone who lives in a different level of poverty than what I have encountered—an area between homelessness and self-sufficient. A gray area.
Someone who is trying his best in a big, big world . . . who likely sees this big big world a little differently than the majority of us. Most likely different for the better.
And in the fifteen minutes we talked, I hope he’s helping me to see the world a little differently, too.