New York City. Paul. 9.28.17
"I am homeless. You can talk to me" a gruff voice said, just above a whisper; while quiet, the voice sounded of confidence.
The voice belonged to Paul, a 45 year old fella who has been homeless for the past 10 years. Our interaction with Paul was much like that of running into an old friend who you haven't spoken to in years, but somehow catching up seems so innate. He waxed poetic (literally rapping some original lines) and spouted life lessons with grand enthusiasm. In short, he was a character and an absolutely pleasure to speak with.
Ten years ago Paul was living in Georgia and maintaining a lifestyle that his disability insurance could provide, when a romance convinced him to move to New York City. As you probably guessed, the move was not in Paul's favor and his (ex) girlfriend kicked him out. The relationship he had with his family had been long gone; his manic episodes, due to bipolar disorder, caused quite the strife years before.
So here he is, talking to two strangers, giving them a wealth of knowledge and sound advice. Little did he know the impact that he had, leading us to share his musings with the internet.
- (On the stigma surrounding the homeless) "There is a stigma, because people are ignorant."
- (On other homeless) "There is a social class on the street."
- (On laughter) "When everyone can learn to laugh at themselves, the world would be a much better place."
- (On entitlement) "We aren't entitled to anything. You are only entitled to what you give."
- (On education) He is proof that you are never too old to learn and/or change your life's plan; as Paul - at the age of 37 - passed a semester at ASA College.
In addition to all of his reverie, our interaction with Paul provided proof to the idiom, "never judge a book by its cover."*
*We do plan on keeping in touch with Paul, as he did have a phone (primarily to check on his mother's health). He invited us to spend some time with him to truly understand the life of the homeless in NYC.
*In the second picture you will see a man handing out clothing. He does this weekly. It was a nice little "faith in humanity restored" moment.