Friday, 26 February 2016

“Homeless But Not Hopeless” — A Chitchat With a Man Holding a Sign

I had an unusual encounter today. I was back from buying tea from the grocery store across the street when I saw a black man in his late 40s-early 50s holding a sign. I could read the first word which is ‘homeless’.

Having a few quarters in me pocket, I stopped, smiled, and got the coins out and handed them to him. Only for him to say: I don't take no money.

You rarely ever get that reaction from someone who looks homeless and is standing in the street with a sign. I then decided to read the rest of the sign so I may better comprehend, and it read: Homeless But Not Hopeless.

Ah. So you're here to show the sign and spread the message? I asked.


Well, I hear you. Have a good day, Brother.”

I went back to my room and made a cup of tea, but the brief encounter was all over my mind. Then it hit me: Since all he wants is to spread his heartfelt message, being a writer and photographer with some online presence, I should assist him in getting the message out.

I took two sips from the tea, grabbed the camera, and went down rushing. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the man. I saw the guy who works at the mart of the gas station so I asked him about the sign man who was just standing there.

He said he probably left this way, signaling to Washington Blvd, but he's here everyday. Alright then, I'll hopefully see him again and get him and his message in a photo or video and upload it online. Who knows, maybe it goes viral and he gets some kind of help. You know these things happen in real nowadays thanks to the virtual world.

15 minutes later, I saw him again standing in the same spot by the gas station. So I went to him, explaining that since he doesn't want money I could take a photo of him to spread his message.

I don't do that.

Well, how do you want to spread the message?

I don't want.

Then what do you want if you don't want money?

I said I don't take change; I could take bills.

Aha (I must have misheard him).

Do you see how the struggle is real?

Yeah. You know, I'm currently homeless too, but I'm originally all the way from Egypt.

Salam Aleiko,” he smilingly blurted out.

I said that now that I know his struggle, next time I see him I'll have a bill for him. Then I left.

As I was crossing the street, I reached my hand in my pocket and found a few one dollar bills. So I just turned around and went back to give them to him. I introduced myself, we shook hands, and he said his name was Malik.

Somehow the brief chitchat led to him telling me, one needs to have faith in Allah.

I nodded yes, then said that, “Allah is within us all, you and I included. ‘He’ is not an old man in the sky holding a big book. Everyone one of us is part of this collective divinity

I could see his eyes widening in agreement.

Malik's last words before I leave was not to do drugs or drink alcohol. Like many homeless people, he must have had bad experiences with one or the other, or both. He now looks clean and sound coherent. But then again, you never know if he's talking about his own past or just in general. Whatever it is, I'm certainly not here to judge the man.

“Well, I've had serious issues with hard drugs in my 20s. Now I'm cleaner than ever and loving it”, I confessed, responding to his well-meaning advice.

Good for you. God bless you.

God bless you too. Have a peaceful day.

Another human interaction from the heart of Venice.


Well, as I have been seeing Malik almost everyday standing there with his sign for over four hours, I began to wonder if he can't stand somewhere else where he can get paid for it — think a security guard or so. Is it because some homeless people are lazy and do not want to work or is it because he thinks he'll be making more money by standing by a gas station holding a sign?

Is this his best option?


Hotel Living: Then and Now

Personal Questions I'm Often Asked and Their Answers 

Countering Gentrification — Eating Cheap and Healthy in Venice Beach [With a List of Places and Their Menus]

Attempting to Bridge the Gap Between ‘Us’ and ‘Them’: Officer Roberts

Things I Couldn't Quite Understand After Being On The Road For Seven Months 

Why Hippies Are Sometimes Called Bohemians

The Joy of Being a Wanderer and the Credit Card Number

A Dollar & Thirty Four Cents in Me Pocket and Feeling Fine 

When Lady Ran Away

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