Epiphany on Arch Street – Vent LII

It’s Monday (Sept. 2nd) afternoon in Philadelphia, and my friend (Amara) and I were waiting downtown at The Gallery at Market East for our Greyhound bus back to Toronto which was leaving at 8pm. It was about 6pm when we decided to just take a bit of a walk around downtown just to kill some more time, given the fact that we were sitting in a mall longer than we both ever had in our entire lives – it gets exhausting. While walking on Arch Street, we walked about half a block East to just stretch our legs and then we turned back.


When we got back to 10th street, a homeless man asked if we had some change to spare. For some reason, because I usually don’t, I pulled out my wallet and gave him a 10 dollar bill, and Amara did the same. It’s weird because back home I probably wouldn’t have done that; I most likely would have just walked by, but because I was in another country and it was just a feeling of generosity, I handed it to him.

He couldn’t believe that we gave it to him – he called us Angels, and obviously we couldn’t help but smile. I didn’t think much of it, I was just doing what I felt was right at the time, but then something happened that usually doesn’t happen when you hand a homeless person money – he asked us to sit down so he could talk to us. We introduced ourselves, and he gave his name (Troy) and began to tell his story about his basketball career including the American, International, and Canadian leagues. From a 2 year recovery from Malaria and bouncing around from teams to teams on practice & travel squads, Troy unfortunately was introduced to crack and that’s when his life spun right down the drain to where he was currently sitting on the steps in the heart of Philadelphia’s Chinatown. What was so genuine about it was that you can tell that there was a true emotion to his story and I really believed him. I know that drug abusers and addicts are notorious for denial and swindling the truth behind their downfall, but hearing him speak opened up my eyes to the fact that these things really happen to everyday people, and you don’t know their stories unless things like this happen.

He said that he had asked about 100 people for some money, and the majority of them were black people who just turned their noses towards him and told him ‘stop begging; get a job’, and at that point, he had lost hope in Black people helping each other out. The fact that we were the reasons why he had faith in people again really made me feel good, because I feel that it’s important (as people, not just black people) to build each other up, and not tear each other down, which is what we unfortunately do too much. What was compelling to me is that he said some things that really hit home. He knew that he was down, but he didn’t want people feeling sorry for him, he said that we had to take from his story and grow from it. He still does what he can to help people out even when he doesn’t have much because that’s who he is. He stated that there is no karma; you do things because that’s just how you are, and that’s what his belief was when explaining as to why we gave him the money to help him out. I know that America has its issues, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t still good people out there. Look, they’re our neighbours, and we don’t have to like them, but it’s been tradition since World War 1 that Canada has had America’s back when they’re down (in certain situations), and this was no different. Troy had tears in his eyes and said that they were feel good tears because his faith had been restored, and what he left with us was that he’d never forget us for helping him. He said that he was going to tell the story of us to anyone he met and you can tell when someone looks you in the eye when they say that, that they mean it. I felt very humbled over the experience because you really take appreciation in what you have and what so many people don’t.

I don’t think much of myself because I don’t consider myself where I want to be yet, but at that particular moment, I took a few minutes to just reflect on the fact that I helped bring a significant feeling to a complete stranger. No insurance, blood soaked bandages, and a need for some clean clothes, what’s a few dollars out of my way to help someone else? And the fact that I was helping someone of my own race, it felt a little different because it’s the little things that can help us progress as a race that can move forward positively in life – that’s all I want, and I’m glad it happened. Helping others help themselves is something that I try to do, and it’s something that we should all do, because there’s always someone with less than us that just hopes for a little more. We can all do our part.

That’s My Word & It STiXX

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