Looking At Homelessness. What’s In A Short Gaze?


I woke up last night. Thinking about a particular homeless man that I had seen that Saturday afternoon sleeping. And it didn’t make me proud. It didn’t make me anything close to a Good Samaritan.

I saw a man on the streets today. He was sleeping rough, right there in front of me, with his eyes open. Resting on his side 90 degrees straight down to one side with his head on the pavement. Or, there was a sleeping bag with him, and some dirty clothes. He had a note saying: It’s still cold at night. The sun was shining you see. And he was begging for money. I looked at him, briefly, quickly. I saw him as I had walked past, out of the corner of my eyeball.

Had my shopping bag over one shoulder, my four year old in one hand and my six years old in the other. We were shopping for tacos and ice cream. Such a warm day after all the cold this winter. 16 degrees and sunshine. I had decided only to gaze down in the direction of his face and head, quickly – as we walked passed. I don’t think my children noticed much. I was thinking, should they notice? But I looked hard. My professional, nurse look. Stared, as I couldn’t really see him breathing and he was sleeping, although his eyes were open.

In conclusiveness, in the blink of an eye, ten seconds and he was gone. We walked past, I decided I didn’t need to ask if he was awake. He was holding his body, I believe he was. Against the asphalt, leaning towards some sort of shop wall. I came home and woke up at night. Thinking about my children. What kind of children do I raise if I don’t care? Don’t stop and check when I pass this man. And there are many of them. My children see them, if not on a daily, at least on a weekly basis. And we don’t help. We don’t even stop.

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