He’s Back!

The homeless man who spends his mornings on the platform at Grand Army Plaza is back after a long absence. (See So Easy You Just Smile post.) He showed up a few days ago, sporting a new knit cap. I found him carefully pouring most of a 5 lb. bag of sugar into a bottle of orange soda. His cart was intact and contained more of less the same things when I last saw him weeks ago.

I was relieved to see him and comforted to know that he had not been victimized while he was away. Every morning that he’d been gone, I’d thrown out some positive vibes for his safe return, but then I realized that instead maybe I should have been hoping to never see him again, that he would find a way out of his current situation and into a better life. Is that egotistical of me to presume that one way of life is better than another? He could be perfectly happy in his current situation, surviving on the kindness of strangers, unencumbered by the traps of society.

Many people might look at my existence and assume something similar – “How does she live in a 600 sq. ft. apartment in a 5th floor walk-up? I hope that someday she can move up to a big house with a fenced yard.” While that would be very nice, I’m actually happy in my tiny apartment, thank you very much.

I’m starting to rethink the notion that “more” means “better”. Maybe instead of hoping that the guy at Grand Army Plaza gets what I want for him, he should get whatever it is he wants for himself.

Later that evening, I was returning home after walking my dog around the neighborhood. An elderly woman came out of her building with a yellow lab. She’s partially blind and shows signs of dementia. In fact the only reason she seems able to live on her own, and not in an assisted living home, is due to the dog.

I’ve seen her many times before. She never strays from the straight line between her door and the curb so the dog can relieve himself. Occasionally I see her wrap his leash around the fire hydrant so she can brush him. She is not gentle or kind, using the brush as if she were scrubbing a linoleum floor.

Easily more than 80 pounds, the lab remained docile while his owner jerked his collar and whined, “Come on! Why are you doing this to me? Hurry up!” His inky, soulful eyes watched intently as I passed with my dog. They stared at each other and I would swear in a courtroom that this dog was begging to be released from this situation. “I did it Your Honor. I stole this dog and drove him upstate to a farm where he can breathe fresh air, sniff another dog’s butt, eat gross stuff and run until his tongue is hanging out.”

As I put my key in the door, I glanced once more at the dog, still staring at us as the lady yelled again, “Hurry up!” I felt so sad for him, just as I’d felt sad for the guy at Grand Army Plaza, and I wished the dog a better life – the life I wanted him to lead, the life I thought he should have. But maybe, just maybe, he’s fine just where he is. Maybe he doesn’t mind the 600 sq. ft. apartment in the 5th floor walk-up. Maybe he’s actually already happy.

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