To The Woman Pouring Water In a Homeless Man’s Mouth

Chagall

To the woman pouring water into the homeless man’s mouth:

Hi, I work two blocks from you on Taylor Street and Golden Gate Avenue. Every morning I bike down Golden Gate to my office job in a co-working space. I ride the elevator seven floors to the “penthouse.” I brew tea, make some oatmeal and bring it all to my desk where I camp out for 8+ hours.

I enter the digital world. I respond to email after email; I blast things out on Mailchimp; I interact with early-stage startup founders and corporate employees that pay my company enough to cut me a paycheck. Usually, I eat my homemade lunch at my desk.

But sometimes I venture out. I walk back down Golden Gate to a sandwich shop and pass by St. Anthony’s where you work. The walk is always lively; passing the faces in the Tenderloin, I give a friendly nod to each, saddened that it is all I can give at the moment.

You were there one day, a hot, sunny day, which is rarely experienced in San Francisco. A man was passed out on the ground, his face directly in the sun. I couldn’t tell if the color of his skin was a result of hours under the sun or caked with days of dirt, but he looked extremely dehydrated. He looked as though life had given him nothing.

You were crouching down, a bottle of water in your hand, trying to pour water into his gaping mouth, him still completely passed out and not even aware of your presence. But your presence was strength. It was calm and compassionate. It was real. I can’t explain to you how your presence was a bridge for me, allowing me to venture from my digital world to reality on the streets that surround San Francisco’s bourgeois lifestyle.

I walked on by you. I took the elevator back up seven floors, sat at my desk with my sandwich and clicked open my email. Pause. Breath. I looked out the window. I stood up and observed the street below. From my castle.

You gave more than just him water. Observing you in that moment brought water to the many seeds already planted in me over the years. I can’t continue to push aside reality.

Around me, systems are in place to help some rise, and to make it extremely hard for others to ever swim with the current. The man on the street, an individual with many, many stories that point to why he is in the place that he is, stories most likely filled with trauma and hardship and microaggressions, is a byproduct of his family, his community, our society, our nation.

I have to acknowledge that, and I can change the role that I play. The strong message I’ve received since birth is that, in America, success is solely about an individual’s hard work and drive. I don’t buy it. It doesn’t seem that you buy it either.

So to you, dear woman, you’ve pushed on the final straw for me to do something. Your work has not gone unfelt or unnoticed. I hope to find your strength in myself and give someone in dire need, clean water.

 

Emily is from a place where personal stories flow as freely as sweet ice tea – the Deep South. A psychology-nerd, she believes human connection is as vital to a person as clean water. Her “North Star” is to see the start-up spirit intertwine with the mental health industry.

Image: Marc Chagall, Four Seasons

 

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5 Comments

  1. What a lovely and moving story!
    I don’t know who chose the image,
    but that Chagall mosaic (in front of
    the 1st Natl Bank bldg, in Chicago’s Loop,
    is one of my favorite art works in the world!

  2. Laurie Tyler

    I really enjoyed your story and can definitely relate to the message. Similar to my experience in Guatemala last year. :)

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