Out on the route, the team scans all intersections and slows down at those intersections that have stop lights. There is a tendency to look to the distance to scan for those that might be out. To be on the lookout for those holding up a cardboard plea, “PLEASE ANYTHING” and talk stops momentarily while all the truck’s occupants look for movement though the oldies plays on in the background and the cab is warm.
The day is overcast and the temperature bearable — mid 40’s. The weather people call for rain, but none so far. The clouds press down and everyone feels sleepy and yawns from time to time. The team passes around a yawn and everyone laughs. Though everyone gets out of the truck at each stop, the weather is such that you zip up your coat or pull up your hoodie to maintain a bit of warmth on your head.
We see him in the distance and almost miss him at first as he is sitting on his haunches at the stop light in the narrow median. He crouches like a catcher holding his mitt and waiting for the next pitch. Instead of a mitt, he holds a sign and he is but a shadow on the median. Dark clothes, dark shoes, dark hat pulled down low. Garden gloves cover his hands. He recognizes the truck, waves slightly and tries unsuccessfully to smile.
He shakes with rough hands. Hands that have worked for a living doing manual labor. But there is a tenderness to the handshake. It is not aggressive but almost passive. He looks you in the eyes and you try to smile and you do, but it is forced. You can feel his sadness and though he tells you he’s doing fine, what else can he say? He’s holding a fucking sign on a street corner on a winter day. How would any of us respond if the roles were reversed?
He appreciates the hot chocolate and holds it in his bear hands for warmth. He thanks us for the food and for stopping. He tells us he will see us in the near future. We do not know if this is true, but can only hope that if we see him in the future, the weather is better and perhaps he will be off the streets. We wave and get back into the warm truck. A glance in the rear view mirror shows a man back on the median sitting on his haunches holding a sign. “PLEASE ANYTHING”
This is our community and we are the forgotten.