A few weeks ago I was in the drivers seat two cars deep waiting at a busy red light in an upscale Beverly Hills intersection when I looked over and saw a man standing on the corner. He looked like he was in his fifties, smooth dark skin and good posture. He was holding a rectangle of brown cardboard that had written in dark blue ink, ‘anything helps’. Our eyes met and we smiled at each other. I nodded my head as if to say, ‘I see you’ and he did a one finger wave back to me acknowledging our connection.
It reminded me of when I got my motorcycle license. The first thing my instructor told me about was respect.
“When you’re on your bike, and you see another motorcyclist, you acknowledge them. You’re part of the same club now.”
As I sat at the street light I thought about this man. I wondered how he got there, where he was headed and who loved him.
I’ve never had to beg on the street, or squeegeed someones windshield, or even dumpster-dived. But I don’t think less of anyone that has. I’ve lived in my car, showered in gas station sinks, and even worked for cash bartending in a sketchy strip club (that I’m pretty sure was trafficking in girls from Russia). I’ve done things I’m not proud of. I’m many years removed from that life, but I still carry it with me.
The man standing on the corner didn’t ask me for money, he moved to the other cars around me. Maybe my worn eyes bared my soul to him in that moment. It’s like he knew I’d experienced the fringes of that club. Like we were all in this club together, just doing our best, just trying to matter. And we are.