Yesterday one of the homeless men in my ‘hood saved my life. Okay, maybe I am exaggerating a bit but he definitely stopped me from possibly being hit by a large truck as I crossed the street outside of my apartment. I was taking the boys (dogs) out for our daily afternoon walk and I started crossing the street on the walk signal. Stating that I was actually crossing on the walk is important as I am becoming a true New Yorker and hardly pay any attention to the walk signals and usually just cross when the traffic passes. So, there I was trudging across the intersection, dodging the huge slush puddles, in my own little world, when I heard someone yelling “Stop, hey, lookout, stop!” really loud. Now, there are a lot of people yelling on New York streets and if you actually paid attention to all of them, you would get very little done. With good reason, many people tune out and listen to music to avoid the constant noise and commotion. For some reason I actually looked up at this man and paid attention. I stopped, forcing the people behind me to stop, just as a large truck who was illegally making a left hand turn, barrelled down in front of us, paying no attention to crossing pedestrians. In fact, he barely missed the dogs who were out on the leash ahead of me. The truck passed, I yelled out a thank you to the man who immediately started mumbling about it being cold and dogs and beaches… he barely acknowledged that he had just helped us out, that is the way he is. I continued on my walk, thankful that this man had been paying attention.
I know this man, I see him daily. He is one of the people in my neighborhood. Unfortunately, he is one of the people in our area who is down on his luck. I often see him rummaging through garbage cans, I have had to explain to the children what “homeless” means. It is not an easy lesson to give or learn. My oldest daughter wanted to know why Santa couldn’t bring all of the homeless people homes for Christmas. *Sigh* If only it were that easy… This man is a fixture in our neighborhood, I see him often, he is rarely coherent. He does not beg. He wanders our streets with a sense of community, I have seen him tell people that they can’t park in a certain spot and then in the next breath start ranting about colors. He belongs here. Everyone knows him.
NYC is a place built on neighborhoods and community and I am beginning to explore and get to know mine. There is the guy on the corner who sells fruit, even when it is freezing out. The magazine man who never judges me even though the only reading material I routinely buy is “People” magazine. The nail salon lady who waves at me when I walk by the storefront. The various doormen that I pass on my daily dog walks who go out of their way to wave or say hello. The harmless flirtation with the meat counter man at Fairway. The lady with the little poodle who moves to the other side of the street when she sees me and the big dogs walking by. The Starbucks’ baristas who ask how your day is going and actually listen to the answer. The school crossing card who knows your kids names. I could go on…
My point is, that no matter how fast paced, big or intimidating this city can seem at times, there really is a sense of community and belonging. People do look out for other people in their neighborhood. There is something truly comforting in that. And I for one, am going to be a bit more aware at intersections…have to stop daydreaming and looking up 😉 And I will definitely try to keep the positive karma going and pay it forward!!