Esperanza Smith

The Happy Man on the Corner

by | Apr 25, 2020 | Blog

Detroit like many cities and towns has a large homeless population. Homeless individuals are a vast landscape on many street corners and in makeshift lean-to’s in abandoned building entrances along parts of Jefferson Ave. Many individuals seek shelters and then there are some that religiously stake their territory on specific street corners, their vigilant shift lasting up to 10 hrs. in milder weather, their signage boasting fresh creativity as they change out their signs every few days. I observe as to how these “regulars” take to their daily task on my way cross town.

I have considered the choices that some of these individuals have made in how they “earn a living”. I make no judgment. I learn about our society, myself, and Life with their Presence. These individuals are humanity, another reflection of a part of me, and all my encounters lead me to a deeper understanding of Being and the fullness of Presence.

On my drive over into midtown, 10 minutes down the road, on my daily route, I was struck with a new sight other than the usual fellow who sits hunched over at an opposite corner with his sign up and open for business as commuters approach the stoplight, one last stop before getting on the highway. On this corner, the figure that caught my eye was dancing and waving at passerby’s. I got a good look at him as I waited for the long light to change.

He was dressed in a white sports coat and some slacks. A metallic gold looking trim shown underneath his jacket. His combat boots were unlaced, and the bottom of his scrunched-up pants were tucked in. He had yellow tinted goggles on over his fitted cobalt blue cap. He was waving his large sign around to a beat he was jamming to. Large letters read “You Are Greatness!” and on the reverse side it said, “Live Happy!”. Admittedly, I had never seen this kind of sign before, nor the likes of such an individual on this corner.

A spontaneous smile came over me. My heart felt happy. Instantly, I thought to myself that, that man was ministering a service. It also occurred to me that our society might reject such an individual, even cast him out for what society might label as “Crazy”. Then a second thought came as to how odd it is that in our society, “functioning” individuals who walk about grumbling and pessimistic throughout their day could be seen with greater acceptance and a “saner” disposition, whereas, that Happy Man on that corner might not be. A third thought came, the irony of Life. A fourth thought came, how do we value a human being? A fifth came, how do I value a human being?

As the light changed, I passed the Happy Man, then I passed the “regular” hunched figure at his dutiful post, I looked up to the city skyline, so vast indeed. I got onto the highway and resolved that what I did conclude in that moment was that I definitely felt happy by the energy the Happy Man on the corner was exuding. Was he sane? I don’t know. I don’t care. I do know what I felt and for that I was thankful.

Days later, I retold this story, all my thoughts, and questions to my husband while on a brisk winter walk along the river where the best conversations swell up, with some of the most satisfying moments we share in life. He shared his opinion that it must hold great importance because it moved me and here I was days later with its affect still fresh upon me, in that moment, and it made me happy. I walked a little bit more and again my smile widened. Yes, that was true, and I smiled even more at the thought of just how powerful happiness Is.

[Photo: Andrew Amistad]

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