I was working one day, waiting for a vintage store to open on Hollywood Blvd. As I waited I saw across the street a man, grey hair and beard, in his sixties.He had crutches, his right leg was amputated at the knee.His clothes, jeans and a white t-shirt were dirty.He had no shoes.
He laid the crutches off to the side and pulled a rag and a bottle of cleaner out of a small bag.He started to drag himself along the block, stopping at each star to clean them.As people passed, tourists and others, they stared or ignored.One man appeared to be talking to him, then started taking photographs.
Watching this my first reaction was that of great sadness.There is no doubt in my mind, living on the street is the harshest of realities.The inhumanity and inequity of such an existence is the sharpest and cruelest knife life can stab with.
I wondered how he lost his leg…was it in Vietnam, was it because of diabetes, gangrene and no medical insurance?Did he have a family?Did they know he was alive?Did they simply give up on him?
All the while, he scuttled himself with a serpentine agility and grace, from one star to the next, tirelessly rubbing and cleaning.Rubbing and cleaning.And smiling, not the crazed smile of a man insane but dare I say, a joyfulness. It was then I began to see something quite unexpected.This man, despite his plight in life, had created for himself a sense of purpose.He was a man on a mission.He was giving his life meaning in a world of chaos.He wasn’t going to idly endure the suffering and hardship of being homeless.He gave himself a job.
There was no cup.No hand reaching out for money.
From that tattered and torn tapestry of what was his reality, he held with great devotion his last shred of dignity.