Silenced in City Corners


Photo courtesy of Google images


I remember stepping out of the train at Penn Station, escalating the concrete stairs that led to the bustling city sidewalks. I followed my dad as we navigated through the city, jay-walking when necessary. Invisible clouds of contaminants, garbage bags piled high on street corners, and the notorious honking of frustrated civilians greeted me; my mind was forced to process quickly. My recollection of this trip to my father’s workplace in the city would be incomplete without the lessons my parents had taught me regarding the homeless. “Don’t make eye contact, keep your head straight” repeated through my head as we made our way to the L’Oreal headquarters. However, I could not help but stare at the unfortunate faces with eyes that told of their past; their past, which told a different tale from my sheltered upbringing in Chester. At home that night, I was unsettled. I failed to comprehend why we are told to avoid eye contact with the helpless faces of the men and women in city corners.


Three years later in Boston, a homeless man sat outside of the Starbucks on Newbury street. My parents hurriedly walked towards our next destination, familiar with the unspoken ‘rules’ of city living, practically stepping over a homeless man. I found nothing to be afraid of, and I looked the man in the eyes. He gently asked for a few pennies so that he would have enough money to purchase a meal for dinner. I stopped, pulling my green wallet from my khakis. I found no pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, or bills. Standing still, I called my father over. I asked him to give the man a few dollars, and when my dad gave me the dollar bills, I handed them to the man. He smiled and thanked me, telling me his plans to eat a meal for the first time in four days.