It’s a sight not at all uncommon on these hard streets: a broken man lying unconscious on the sidewalk in front of a Seven-Eleven. And to the untrained eye perhaps that’s all it could be. But a closer look would likely reveal that something remarkable was afoot. For the man had picked a spot that offered no shelter from the sun’s blistering rays, nor the pachyderm humidity that sat astride the city like a lead shroud.
Within a few seconds of my passing by, two young women had descended upon him, laden with bottled water and good intentions. “Drink, drink!” they shouted at him, trying to shake him from his just slumber. “You’re going to dehydrate!” The man sat up and waved them off. They continued the shaking and repeated their entreaties, but to no avail; he doggedly refused their water and assistance.
Now let’s examine the summation of elements: in a city where the average denizen would happily slash your throat asunder for a bye-line, where the government routinely considers the regulation of your soda intake, this man had placed himself at the mercy of nature and turned back attempts to rescue him from that very decision. This was an individual not only of remarkable genius, but personal mettle and integrity as well. The utter power of his stand shook me to my core.
After a minute or two of struggle, paramedics arrived on the scene and assured the young women that they had the situation well in hand. And make no mistake, I hope the guy did eventually take steps to replenish himself. But on his terms.
This is yet another scenario that restores my faith in the human spirit and its indefatigable ability to change the narrative, to say no when all others would not. I find myself wondering if this increasingly soul-less world, and the city that proudly embodies said soullessness, can continue to shelter men of such vision.