Homeless Thanksgiving…JT

Homeless Thanksgiving

It was a Thursday afternoon and I was coming home from school. My bus was late so I caught the 27 Port Covington bus. I got off at Lexington Market and walked down to the subway station to catch the train. As I walked down the escalator, I saw a homeless man lying on the steps. I stood on the platform and waited for the train. The train was late as usual. All of a sudden, the homeless man started to cough uncontrollably.

I stepped towards the man and asked him,

“Are you okay?”

“Yes, I’m fine. Thank you for asking” he replied.

There was an awkward silence before he said,

“I’m surprised you asked.”

“Excuse me?”

“I said I’m surprised you asked. Not a lot of people are worried or take interest in my wellbeing. They always think I’m trying to get their money or something.”

“ Oh no problem,” I said.

“By the way, my name is Charles” he said and extended his hand for a handshake.

“ Nice to meet you Charles. My name is Janiah” I said and shook his hand.

“What are you coming from school or something?”

“Yes, I go to The Community School.”

“ I never heard of that school” he said.

It was obvious that he was homeless, so I asked him, “ Mr. Charles, what did you do before you were homeless?”

“ That’s a little personal, don’t you think Miss Janiah?”

“ I’m sorry I didn’t mean to…” I said.

“No it’s okay and you can call me Charles. I was 18 yrs old and walking home from school when I saw people standing outside my house, crying and hugging each other.”

I ran to my father and asked,“ Dad, what’s going on?”

“ I’m sorry son. He came over and hugged me. ” I didn’t even have to ask. I knew what it meant. I had been drafted for the war in Vietnam.

I was stationed at the Don Muang Royal Thai Air Force Base in Vietnam. One day we were sent out on mission to check out a bombing site. We flew over the area where the bombing was reported. We landed the helicopter and families were yelling for us to save their children. We loaded some kids on the chopper, but as we were about to pull back up, a woman came running at us and started to literally throw her child at us. I could see there was a bomb strapped to the child, so I fired.

I shot a three old child, who was smiling at me, happy. I lost it that day, went AWOL, and a little crazy.

When I came home, my family was gone. I had nothing. It was hard to find a job. No one wanted to hire a mentally unstable war veteran. I just started wandering and ended up here.

“Wow. That’s a lot take in,” I said.

“Yeah, people don’t realize how much we went through over there. We didn’t just go over and play patty cake and then come back home. We did things that people shouldn’t have to do. Saw things people shouldn’t have to see. And then a lot of us came back to nothing and no job.”

After Charles finished telling his story, the train came. I said goodbye, gave him a couple dollars and wished him luck.

The story Charles told me really stuck with me. It made me change my view on homeless people. Next time I look at a homeless person I won’t just write them off. I’ll think of them as people who maybe just need someone to talk with, someone to ask, are they all right. We shouldn’t just disregard them.

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