A few years back, hurrying to work, I nearly missed him. He was sitting along the wall beside the AT & T building in Chicago’s Loop, stoic and still among rushing throngs of office workers, tourists and students. To either side were his two dogs, A cart with the man’s world belongings were beside him.
I didn’t know his story or where he came from, and I have not seen him since. It was a moment in which the paths of our lives crossed for a perfect and powerful moment.
What I find in looking at this man becomes less of a narrative about him as it is an insight to my own heart. Still, it is impossible to escape the torture of his eyes, one that speaks to pain and lonesomeness. In that face are a thousand stories and possibilities. Perhaps he ran afoul of the law when he was young, or made poor choices in life that brought him to this place. Maybe it was drugs or alcohol, or even mental illness. Maybe it was none of these things. Life can bring any soul to the precipice of despair. Not everyone comes to that fight with the same strengths. Some are crushed under the weight. I have felt that strain before. I have people who love and support me. Those blessings are simply not the case for all of us.
There is a certain wisdom tinged with exhaustion in his eyes that suggests at a life of tough breaks and a lack of family and support. It could well have been an illness or the loss of someone close that he could not recover from. In the end, the story one makes about the man tells more about them than about him.
One thing that is without question is the loneliness in his stare. The dogs are his companions and family, but there is little to suggest in the evidence that the story of their shared lives will end happily. And that is where I will leave it…