I’d had my eye on this man sitting on a bench, but for some reason it took me a while to approach him. This project has, in large part, been a mental game for me. Fear of rejection, fear of being intrusive, fear of lack of skill, questioning my motives. So what held me back from talking to this man on the bench? I don’t honestly know. I generally avoid people that appear to be homeless for the simple reason that I feel I don’t have much to offer them — the transaction is very one sided, and I don’t want to come off as voyeuristic. Something in this man’s eyes drew me in, though, and I finally went and sat on the bench next to him and said hello.
This is Clark. He is nearing retirement age and has one of the most interesting retirement plans I have ever heard: he wants to go teach English to adults working in the construction business in either Central or South America. He wants to help enable folks to understand how to get a job in North America, how to read construction plans, etc. He has a background in construction and recently took an ESL certification course to enable him to teach. He told me he already has a teaching offer in Costa Rica. Clark and I talked for close to forty minutes about a variety of topics, and I found him to be a truly genial person. Though things have not always gone well for Clark, the world does not seem to have beaten him down. He says life has taught him that there are cycles and when an opportunity closes another will open, so he patiently waits for another door to open. He stays positive, hopeful and proud. This encounter with Clark has provided a small bit of hope; that maybe what I can offer anybody, no matter what they look like or where they are, is my time to simply listen to them.