As I walk down Washington Street towards LaSalle after passing Wells, a man sits in the same spot on most mornings. Some afternoons I see him, but not too often.
Each morning I pass, he smiles widely and nods as he says, “Be blessed and have a good day!” He says it loud and clear as if it to say, “I’m here and someone will acknowledge me!” The same phrase to each and every person that he is able to connect with as they pass by him.
Some nod, while most ignore him. I make eye contact and acknowledge him with a head nod, but today was different. I opted to miss lunch, so I could leave an hour early to run a couple errands at the end of the day.
Today I saw him in the morning and he nodded smiling widely as he said, “Be blessed and have a good day.” I nodded with a smile and replied, “You too man!”
As I walked pass the rental car office in the afternoon, then a garage entrance and an empty space filled with windows where I could see myself as I walked. I saw the “Be Blessed” man as I’d come to know him in my head.
I decided to stop. “You been here all day?” A train decided to go down the elevated track hovering over Wells and drowning out my voice.
He wore a bright Cubs blue hoodie with a faded military olive hued twill jacket with worn seams. As he looked up at me from his seated position on the ground, he touched his ear with his hand as a sign that he could not hear me when we made eye contact.
After the train passed by, I repeated my question.
“You been here all day?” I asked and tilted my head to the side. “Because I normally don’t see you in the afternoon only the morning.”
“Yes ma’am, I been here all day today.” He nodded his head. “It costs me $25 a day to rent a room, so I’m out here trying to get to that point if not better.”
In my head I did the math, ’If you out here making $25/day at 7 days a week then that’s $175 a week times four…hmmm’ instead I just nodded my head and continued listening to what he was telling me.
“I use the money people give me to take care of myself and buy me clothes. Not for nothing bad.” I remembered I had a loose dollar sitting in the pocket of my bag and begin rummaging through to pull it out. He continued on talking.
“I try to be out here most days, but those days I can’t I just can’t.”
I gave him the loose dollar. “Hey man, I appreciate your ‘Be Blessed and Have a good day’ with a smile. I don’t have much, but there ain’t nothing anyone can find wrong in that delivered with a smile.”
“Thank you! I appreciate that. I know the last thing anybody wants is someone shaking a cup in they face.”
“Aight man, you take care.” I told him as I turned to leave.
“Thank you! and you have a blessed day!” he nodded as he waved.
“Hey you too man! Be blessed!” and as I walked off I thought about how I never asked him his name, but somehow in my head ‘Be Blessed’ would serve as a reminder.
A reminder for the humbling notion that I have all I could ever need in comparison to those that smile as they nod ‘Be Blessed’ when they sit in the cold. I know most people look at them as beggars and bums, but you really have to ask yourself this question. When that man was a boy and that boy had a family, did he imagine he would grow up to be sitting there begging you for money?
What tragedy or event triggered each of these people to be out there on the street? Don’t be so quick to judge when you have no idea what they’ve gone through in their lives that would cause them to make this decision.
At least, that is what I tell myself when I pass by the many homeless wanderers who pass my way in the streets.
So ‘Be Blessed and Have a Good Day’!