Blind And Dirty

Posted by on Dec 9, 2014 in Bangkok, beggars, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Blind And Dirty

  Blind And Dirty

   Something happened today. I realized there is a big difference between being on vacation somewhere, and living somewhere. While the ‘vacation’ part I mostly write about has all been peachy, groovy, and lots of fun, the living part of being here has afforded me not so every day insights into this extraordinary place I am calling home, for now.

   I am a people watcher. Always have been. I make it a point to look at everybody as they pass my way. Sometimes, not often, I get a glance in return. When I do, I smile and nod my head. 

    Today I didn’t look back, and it has been gnawing at me ever since. I had just crossed a bridge in a part of the city seldom visited by tourists when she looked up at me. Barefoot, dirty, toothless, tears roll down her weathered cheeks like waterfalls down a dusty desert crag. An old woman sits amongst squaller on a filthy sidewalk. A man sits with her, holding her bony hand. Is he family? Or just a kind stranger reassuring her with his human touch.

   She asked for nothing. And I, in shame, turned my head, giving her only my cheek.  Am I just a fair weather smiler? My heart fell. I felt like a fraud. People watcher, my ass. Pick and choose as you do! Her eyes glanced and caught my ideal of myself as a watcher of people somewhere between smug, and preferential.

    I lost my nerve. My lungs cry as I lose my breath.  I’m as broken as she is.  A smile for everyone else, for her nothing. No smile, no nod, no offer of assistance. Why am I hiding from a women too hopeless to even beg? My questions swirl. My answer comes after some time. I shudder to think this could be me, or you. And it scares me.

   Walk away Doug, you’ve already betrayed her. My soul called, nobody was home. I failed to see that she is a person deserving at least an acknowledgement of being. She is no less human than I. The air around me grew sour and heavy.The power of my shame shook me in my place. Yet I kept walking. Could I have done something? I don’t know. Maybe next time.

   Next time comes easy here. Despite my trappings of comfort and a full belly, it is all around. A young girl, blind and dirty, takes careful steps while singing into her small microphone. Her egg white eyes seeking acceptance? Or just a meal. I cant tell. She holds a small boys arm. Her voice is from heaven. I drop a few coins in her cup.

   A man with no legs and only one arm  sits in the middle of a busy sidewalk. The cardboard he uses for a cushion advertises a local brew. He is selling bracelets made of leather and stone. I forego the bracelet , but drop a few coins in his cup. He smiles and waves with his only limb. His eyes are beautiful.

   Another man howls as he drags his torso, free of legs, across the sidewalk. His face is withered and bruised. His hands, long calloused beneath his tattered gloves. His cry…haunting. Others, have obvious mental disturbances. Some sit and stare at nothing. Some lay sprawled and disfigured with swollen feet, and heads A cup by their side. A few coins to these unfortunate as well.

   Young women holding babies park themselves on the stairway to, and from the railway stations. It has been long known that some of these women rent the babies, some are in trouble. I cant tell the difference. Others beg for others. I may be duped by a few on the way. But you can’t fake a limbless body, or an eyeless face. Regardless, I drop a few coins in her cup.

   There is one old woman in particular that sits alone on a street a few blocks down from the market. She says nothing. She just raises her folded hands in prayer as we pass. What must it be like to be that old, and have to beg for your survival? My imagination stops before going down that lonesome road. We always stop here. For her, it is a few dollars. She silently thanks us. We go on our way.

    I have had to decide whom it is I give to. The choices, and chances are numerous. For now, I stop for limbless, old women, retarded, and the blind. I cant stop for everyone, but the truth is I usually do. Some may say I am empowering them to keep begging. To me I see it as a meal that may get them through one more day.

   But my heart still hurts when I hear my coins clink in their cup. My life has been blessed, and any hardship I have faced pales in comparison. It doesn’t make me feel good, or make me better, or more human. It saddens me to see humanity in one of it’s least dignified forms.

   I know not of the circumstances that led them here. And I don’t know how to change it. My coins and bills will only get them through a few hours. We have  many things in common . We are some ones child. We breathe the same air. We are warmed by the same sun.

   I walked a long way that night, hoping to shake my guilt. I tried not to imagine the suffering that goes on all around each of us, everyday. No one is immune. It is as much a part of us as anything. If you suffer, I suffer. It is not an exclusive club.

   My pain at the end of this day clung to me like the sweat that rolls down my back during my evening walks. I can try and dab it away, but it always comes back. I was once told that my current incarnation on this planet was to learn compassion. I thought I was there. My presumption is a bit early. I must make more room to grow. 

   I do not have the answers to relieve suffering. I can only be one man. But I can be a better human. I will try and not to turn my eye on those that suffer. I will let my heart lead my soul. I will give when I can. I will smile, and leave my blessing for those that need it the most. I will honor all souls without judgement. I pray and hope I can do these things.

For the woman by the bridge, I cannot go back in time, and give you my smile. All I can do is say “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”

Namaste

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