A few years ago, while walking outside the Staples Center, I engaged in conversation with a homeless man in a wheelchair. He was from, I believe, New York, and came to California long ago for the weather and the dream and …
… now he was homeless, in a wheelchair, smoking a cigarette and begging for change.
I stopped him to offer some food, but also because I wanted to know what it was like to be ignored by society. I mean, this guy would roll along the sidewalk and people, literally, avoided looking his way. No glance, no nod, no acknowledgment of a human taking breaths. It reminded me of a long-ago Twilight Zone episode, the theme of which was a society that punished people for crimes by stamping their forehead with a symbol that instructed others to ignore them. The ensuing time period was pure hell. The indicted would scream, beg, cry—and nobody cared.
In case you missed the above Tweet, yesterday—for Kobe Bryant’s final game as a Laker—the team gifted 20 courtside ticket holders with a special pair of commemorative Nikes that are probably valued at, oh, $1,000 (I’m guessing here). I saw this and, truly, I wanted to vomit.
We live in a weird country, at a weird time, where the richest among us are routinely feted upon with free luxuries, while the poorest among us are stamped on the forehead. Award show attendees leave with gift bags valued in the thousands. Celebrities make appearances that net them tens of thousands of dollars. If you check out any Kardashian/Jenner Instagram feed, you’ll see the young women holding one product after another—nothing ever paid for.
I’m not against gifts. Or, certainly, hard work being rewarded.
But I wonder how we can do this. How we can pull up toward a McDonald’s drive-thru, see a homeless guy sitting on the curb and order three hamburgers for ourselves. How we can live in lovely homes without feeling for those on curbs.
How we can walk past the homeless outside the Staples Center, and give free shoes to those who need them least of all.