This is Wayne, he is in his 70’s and is mostly blind the above picture was taken on the corner of Parmer Lane and I-35 on what we later learned is an area nicknamed “suicide alley” due to the amount of traffic that comes through this area. He had informed us that he had some friends who died panhandling on the same corner that he frequented and that everyday for him is a struggle. He had a shopping cart with a minimal amount of supplies and his dog to keep him company. About a mile down the road was an abandoned construction site he had been squatting in with his brother. I really want to paint a picture of how unfortunate Wayne has it in life and that even though he admitted he is an alcoholic, he chooses not to ask for help from family and friends because he didn’t want to burden them and subsequently led to him being homeless.
Now, Wayne has a lot of reasons to be unhappy and resentful, not only is he blind and cold and lonely but he is elderly which makes his situation even more fragile. Yet, all Wayne could do was smile and hand out compliments to my mom and I, he took his pain in stride, a lesson we all can take away from his situation. This guy was all about being happy and didn’t let his circumstances be a determining factor in his life and chose to have a positive outlook on a rather bleak situation.
That’s when it dawned on me, Wayne will most likely die on the streets; alone, cold and broken. How am I to help someone who is in need of immediate care? Realistically, he needed around the clock help to monitor his blood pressure and he had very bad neuropathy (numbness) in his left arm which probably was a result from his liver failing. I wanted to bring him home and take care of him but I couldn’t I had to do what I could for him that night and leave. Point being, is that sometimes it can be very emotionally taxing doing charity work and seeing some of the people’s conditions that they are in, and that I can’t fix/save everyone. If I couldn’t take care of myself and continue my own path which includes helping hundreds of people, it would limit me from reaching my own goals and passions in life.
It was hard walking away from Wayne that night, getting into my nice car, went to bed in my nice house with my heater on full blast. I felt guilty for having more than him and wondered why life worked out the way it did for either one of us. What makes me different from Wayne? Our thoughts and feelings were all on the same page yet he lays in the street and I lay in bed. The answer is that I will never know why, Wayne and I are two people with very different living situations but it is our pain that unites us. For anyone out there who would like to help out people in similar situations go to this website or visit my Facebook (Joshua Lewandowski) or Twitter @jlewandow47 for more info.