(Published by Forbes Magazine, December issue, 2017.)
It can’t have been a long time since this person has become homeless. This was myfirst thought when I saw him. I first met him a few weeks ago, near the “heated street”. He was standing by the wall, head held high, with several sacks and plastic bags next to him, full of his belongings. Despite the December cold, he had no winter coat, but at least he was wearing several sweaters on top of each other. He had a knitted hat and slightly worn sneakers, but his hands were turning purple from the freezing weather. I saw him twice a week, whenever I had things to do in that street. It was impossible not to notice that he was always standing in the same spot, with the same straight posture and the same bags full of stuff. His face was clean, but as the weeks went by, you could see that he was getting increasingly tired, the bags under his eyes growing in size. His posture and gaze commanded respect, though. I’ve been doing charity work in the area for a long time, so I knew for a fact that these people feel like people as long as they can hold on to their dignity. The intention of giving is not enough, there is an art to it. For most, it was some sort of tragedy, lost conflicts, or soon-to-be-lost personal battles that led them to the point where they reject society, shut the world out, and pretend as if they were all alone on this Earth. In reality, they are far from being alone. During those weeks, it just so happened that I discovered a hole in my nice, warm winter gloves. They were cheap, nothing fancy, I bought them in a small shop in one of the underpasses. I thought it was time to buy new ones. It goes without saying that this time, I bought two pairs. When I was in the neighborhood the next time, I took one of them in its original, unopened packaging and gave it to the man. When I reached him, I said hi, smiled, and attempted to give him the brand-new gloves. I even showed him that I myself had a new pair as well. I didn’t want him to think that I would give him the used one with the holes in it. His gaze is forever seared into my mind, the way he lifted his head and with a clear but sharp look, he said: – “Thank you, but I like not having gloves.” He turned his head away as if he could see something fascinating unfold somewhere down the street. I, of course, felt mortified as I continued my journey, all the while knowing that I was not the one to blame in this situation. Quite the opposite, in fact. I don’t think either of us made a mistake.