Today, I made my way back from an incredible weekend with my friend Kage Alan. I’d been burning the candle at both ends for a while working my EDJ, writing, and promoting (which is like another EDJ in itself). When I fly through O’Hare I end up spending a bit of time waiting in the bus station for my ride. Today, as I was sitting in the chairs, a young man came and sat next to me. His clothes were worn and disheveled, he had sandy hair and a matching beard, and he was very polite as he asked me to help him buy a slice of pizza from the vendor down the way.
I gave him a $20 and wished him well.
As I watched, of course, he walked past the vendor selling pepperoni for $7.50 because that would be an extravagance this kid couldn’t afford. Instead, he sat down in some chairs just beyond the vendor with a couple of other homeless men. So, I followed him. When he looked up, I asked if I could talk with him, but promised that I wasn’t selling Jesus or anything. I told him that I was an author and that I wrote about homeless kids. I asked if he would tell me how he ended up there.
First, he told me his name was David.
David’s drug use started at the age of 13. At first, he used marijuana and alcohol to deaden whatever it is in him that hurts him so much. He couldn’t tell me what that was, but he did admit to having been in a psychiatric facility at one point for suicide attempts and depression. In his home state of Florida, David got into FSU through the art department, but was eventually expelled for drug use. When friends from school decided to come up to Chicago, he tagged along.
In a sweet, soft-spoken voice, he told me of his suicide attempts, including one caught on video. I’ll have to admit as I sat next to him and watched him jump from a third story window, my own issues with depression seemed rather petty. I asked him if he was high when he jumped. He wasn’t. The only thing to save his life was his incorrect guess of how far up he’d have to be. He ended up breaking both feet, one leg, and bones in his back (which explained the harsh limp he’d had as he took the money and walked away earlier).
I asked if he was still in contact with his parents and he nodded. My heart broke with that. I couldn’t imagine what kind of Hell it would have to be to choose between your son and his addiction. Even now, homeless in a Chicago bus station and on methadone, David doesn’t know if he wants to give up the drugs. More than anything, he doesn’t know if he can. He admitted to having sex for drugs, to doing anything he had to in order to score.
For now, all he really knows is that he wants to draw. He shared these with me to put in the post.
In the end, all I could give David was $20, all of my blank paper, a bag full of Crayola markers and pens I use for plotting, a fuckton of compassion and the knowledge that someone actually sees him. This sweet boy asked if I was sure I could afford to give him so much when I hadn’t given him really anything at all. Then, my bus arrived. David stood up, shook my hand, and wished me well. My heart broke for him as I watched him gather up his scrap paper and napkin drawings with gentle care because they were all he had in the world.
So, the very next time you see a kid sitting on the sidewalk asking for change, consider the story behind his request. Remember that he has a name. Will David buy drugs with the money I gave him? I’d be a fool to think he won’t, but maybe he’ll buy a hotdog with it too and survive for another day. Tomorrow, a boy that I love will reach his one-year milestone after a devastating crystal meth addiction. In my heart, I have to believe that anything is possible.