Shasta County, California. Remote Freelance Writer

What is Behind Their Story?


Homelessness or what is their story


Behind Everyone is a Story

Standing in line at our local grocery store is normally uneventful, but not on this day.


Customer service is poor. They never got the memo from the big chains that 3′s a crowd.  As we (me and hubby) approached the front of the store, the line was increasing. With 10 people lined up and no one called for another checker.


Not as things appeared

Got closer to the checkout stand. There was a second checker, no line. My first thought was, did she post a closed sign? But that wasn’t the case.


We went over to the line and placed our 2 items on the counter. In front of me was a young man with a shopping cart. In the cart was  a huge garbage bag full of bottles and cans and tied to the handle of the cart was an equally stuffed bag.


He had placed a few items on the conveyor. Two bottles of orange soda, a package of pastry, and a few other items. Then he put down loose wrapped candy.


When he first put the candy up, I believe there were 10 pieces. He shuffled the candy around, mutter something and then laugh. Next, he picked up a piece, unwrap and consume it. Sometimes he put the wrapper in his pocket. Other times, he dropped it on the floor. When he checked out, he had 4 pieces of candy and consumed a third of one bottle of soda.


Space for respect

I gave him plenty of space. After we had lined up behind him, others lined up behind us. No one said a word. We exchanged glances, observing what was transpiring in front of us.


I checked for items beneath his bag of cans. There was nothing. How many candies did he pull from the bins? With his transparency, couldn’t label him as a thief.


Things not always as they appear

Sure, in my books he stole, but it wasn’t normal. There was a recycle center across the parking lot. A normal person takes care of that first. And not try to maneuver through the store with 2 enormous bags. A normal person bags the loose candy, even if they planned on eating a few pieces before paying.


When we first heard him muttering something and laughing, the usual plausible excuse is a cell phone. He didn’t have one. The odor from him was undeniable. He hadn’t bathed in a while. His hair was short and a large scar across his head. You’re aware that he couldn’t have always been that way. What happened to him?


A lesson to learn

He paid for his purchase with a government card. So they are aware of his condition and subsidized his food. Did he have a place to call home, or was he homeless?


What he did next surprised me. He talked to a man in the next checkout line. Soon, he opened up his pastry and let him take one. Despite having little, he still possessed generosity.


Was this man suffering from schizophrenia? Did the scar on his head contribute to his mental capacity? Was he an injured veteran? Was it drug use or a combo of traumas, and now his brain is frazzled?


What we perceive is not what matters

I thought and realized his destiny was to pick up cans and drive a shopping cart. To imagine him comprehending what he could have or that he lacks anything. Does he have a messed up life? My perception of a messed up life is knowing there’s better elsewhere. But he was very happy with himself and his imaginary friend.


Count your blessings

I felt blessed that day. Do people cross our paths staying long enough for us to receive the message? I felt compelled to go behind him and not fear, as others had done. Only when we lined up and stayed did others follow. Having empathy for others and trying to understand their struggles shows compassion. And is his life so terrible? In our eyes, we might consider it humiliating, but in his world is happiness and kindness. We should learn to embrace humility.


Your thoughts:

How do you react to those less fortunate?

Do you believe that most homeless are honest?


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