Thursday, February 4, 2010


Like a Manhattan sample sale where fights ensue over Botkier bags, grocery shopping today is combative. In less than five minutes I have been shoved, a little old lady searching for radishes drove her cart over my foot and shoppers playing bumper baskets in the next aisle knock down the orange display. I hear someone complaining about the price of lettuce and the deli line is twelve people deep. I am overwhelmed and over-stimulated before I squeeze my first tomato, which is all the motivation I need to shop fast.

Once my groceries are evenly distributed into plastic packets I head to the B/C train. At Columbus Avenue the light turns red and I wait. A homeless man pushing a granny cart stops next to me and says, “Excuse me, sorry to bother you, but I am really hungry and could you help me get a sandwich?”

Even though I just spent $50, I don’t have any cash and say, “I’m sorry I can’t.” He nods and politely says, “Forgive the inconvenience. Thank you for your time.”

He is not the first homeless person I have encountered. I’ve been going to India since I was 2 years old. While homelessness in America is truly tragic, with every Manhattan neighborhood having someone sleeping on the sidewalks, there is nothing that prepares you for New Delhi’s shanty towns filled with naked children.

I glance over at the man. Something about him breaks my heart and I realize I can help. Not with the sandwich he requested, but I have food, and ask. “Would you like some apples?” He smiles warmly and replies, “That would be great. Thank you. You are so kind.”

If I am kind, he is bold. I cannot imagine the toll homelessness takes to his pride. Is he all alone? Did he lose everything? Are his friends looking for him? What a risk to assume, asking strangers for help. Destiny is truly a fine line, and in a city like New York, what really separates the destitute from the bountiful? I hope I never find out and give him the fruit.

“Bless you,” he says and then adds. “You’re really beautiful.”

Okay, a thank you was MORE than adequate. And the way I look today (no make-up, pony-tailed hair that should have been washed yesterday, and an upper lip in dire need of waxing) I am the opposite of beautiful. He must be delirious from hunger. Good thing I gave him those apples.

Botkier Bags


starlight said...

Sweet. It is better to give...

101 Bad Desi Dates said...

Dear Starlight ... homelessness is really sad in America. So is the lack of scholarships for women. Someday, I hope I can use my "power" for good and developed scholarships and buy food for shelters.