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From the Edge: Editorial

 by Megan Irwin  published on Thursday, October 20, 2005


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When a homeless person says "hello," we assume they are asking for a handout and pretend not to hear. But what would happen if you said hello back? What would happen if you engaged that person in conversation, assuming you felt safe enough to do so? As Kristi Eaton learned in this week's cover story ("Finding Shelter" page 8) you'll hear some wild stories and probably discover something about yourself, too.

At least, that's been my experience. When I lived in Washington, D.C., last semester, the homeless were my neighbors. Trading stories and cigarettes with a homeless man (it was the same one each time) at the L Street bus stop after work turned into a highlight of my day. He became protective of me, fatherly even -- shooing off the creepy dudes who always tried to hustle me.

One of my most tender memories of the past year is thanks to (another) homeless man. It was Valentine's Day, and it was raining in the District. I was waiting for the bus, shivering and feeling blue. As I checked my phone for the millionth time to see if a certain someone in Arizona had remembered to call (he hadn't), a man stumbled up to the stop. Obviously homeless, his clothes were dirty, his boots were worn out and he held a rose in his hand. He was crying.

I was as lonely as he was, so I broke my never-talk-to-strange-men-after-dark rule and asked him what was wrong. His story was long, but it came down to what haunts me too late at night: mistakes, lonliness and unrest. I was just a 21-year-old stranger, but he was speaking a language I understood, and I told him so. When my bus finally approached, he handed me his rose and stumbled off into the bitter night.

Later, I hung the rose on my bedroom wall to remind me that even in the midst of extreme darkness there is hope for a human connection -- no matter how small.

Megan Irwin Editor in Chief megan.irwin@asu.edu.



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