I was driving and saw a homeless man holding a sign that read, “Please help this homeless soul.” I thought it was an interesting request. How could I, passing in my car, offer anything to satiate this appeal. What value has he placed on the soul. Would a few quarters do the trick? But perhaps more troubling is the thought of a homeless soul. A soul with no home? A soul with no body, with no respite. I wonder if this man felt so displaced that his body for all intents and purposes became useless, that he had no need for it and was therefore merely interested in reparation for his soul, the one remaining, salvageable remnant of his identity. Would it be a kind word he needed, an eager ear to hear his story, or simply the touch of another human being to bring him home?
Surely I could be a realist and acknowledge that a good meal and warm bed would help this man. I could venture a guess that he’d like a few quarters for whatever provisions. Perhaps I’m an arrogant white-priveledged ignorant yuppie for dissecting the semantics of a homeless man’s sign. But the sign gave me pause. Beyond reasons and reservations I have about giving money to the homeless without question, it made me conscious of the greater issue in play. This man was commenting on the effect homelessness has exhibited on him. He was voicing his discontent with more accuracy than I’ve seen on most crudely cut cardboard signs.
I felt for him, albeit I doubt that was anything to help. I felt a pang of empathy because how many there are of us with homeless souls. Souls searching for something, for some purpose, for some meaning, for some sign to point us in the right direction. We’re all here, giving up on dreams and inspiration, settling on street corners and avenues, in alley-ways and clean-cut sub-developments. Homeless souls long deserted in youth when we were told we had to stop chasing the muse. I know I could never dream to guess the pain this man has suffered. I know that I’ve had opportunities handed to me that have kept me from a similar life. But is there not a significance, if not a deeper hurt, in his acknowledgement of the condition of his soul? Is it not more raw and honest than many would dare to confess. Is it only in hardship that we come to a precipice where we must voice the holler of our soul?
I don’t know what would help this man with a homeles soul. I don’t know his story. I don’t know what led him to his current condition. I don’t know where he goes after he leaves the corner at 75-N and Mack. I don’t know how to help with his request, with his soul, with his sign.
_ Kevin Kaminski 2012