His name is Leo, or at least that’s what he told me. He leans over the table across from me, and in mere minutes draws out a perfect manga character.
“What color should I make the shirt?” He asks me.
I hesitate, not quite knowing how to answer him. I’m careful in this world. I’m a visitor to this haven for the homeless and don’t know the rules yet. But his smooth ebony cheeks tell me he’s young, and barely a legal adult…if he’s even that old.
“I don’t know what’s your favorite color?”
The boy-man grins and reaches into the Crayon box and pulls out an array of blue colors.
Outside, it’s sprinkling, the rain hanging in the air. It’s enough to turn the sidewalk and street shiny, but not enough to make water run. Not like last week. But it’s still cold, which makes me wonder.
“Where are you sleeping tonight?”
“I don’t know. There haven’t been beds at the mission. I’ve been sleeping on the street. The tent got flooded last week.”
I force myself not to cry.
This boy is a handful of years older than my daughter. I can nearly picture her in his place. Soft-spoken, kind eyes, broken. Homeless.
Leo has a sweatshirt, pants, a pair of shoes, and a few sandwiches the ministry just gave him. And that’s all. How he ended up on the street I may never know. But I’m overwhelmed with the fact that I have so much. That this talented man-child sleeps on the street, while my kids are snuggled in bed with an abundance of food, plenty of blankets, and a roof that doesn’t leak.
I don’t know what good I do here at the ministry. I sit at a table, sketch my amateur sketches, smile, and chat. But that boy is going to sleep on the street tonight, and I’ve done nothing to prevent that. Oh, I’ve given money to the downtown ministries. But is that enough?
I am overwhelmed, flooded—the tent of indifference I’d constructed no longer holds up in the torrent of reality. I hope to see Leo again. I don’t know how best to help him, but I’m willing to try.
“For I was hungry, and you fed me…”
If you’re so inclined, look up one of your nearby inner-city ministries, and see how you can help. You won’t be sorry that you did.
This true story is in response to the Five Minute Friday prompt, which I thought was overwhelmed, but in actuality was overcome. Welcome to my brain with sick kids resulting in too little sleep.
Anyway, the rules are: write for 5 minutes and no editing (although I can’t stop myself a little. I am an editor after all.). Normally I write a fiction story, but this scene actually happened today, and wouldn’t leave me alone until I wrote it down. And for the record, I changed Leo’s name. I didn’t have his permission to tell the story and I respect his privacy.