There are those of us who are familiar with the parable of the fifth son. “A man has five sons. Four are at the table eating. But the fifth son is the one who is not at the table. The fifth son has gone wayward. Yet, his seat is still reserved for his return.”
Perhaps you have seen him, with all of his belongings in plastic bags sitting on the hot pavement. I certainly have.
I have no idea how many days a week, he sits at that same spot staring at the world through deep, penetrating eyes, not uttering a single word, not even begging for food to strengthen his skeletal frame. I find myself baffled by this character who portrays such pride and dignity in his silence. Despite his obvious emaciated state.
This homeless person sitting on the hot pavement was different. I don’t know why, but without saying a word, I could hear him speaking to me.
I wanted to know about him, so I questioned other passers-by who frequented the spot. Sadly, it seems that this homeless person was invisible to them, as they seemed not to know or care.
I thought, all this time, day in, day out, no one cared.
Then a deep sense of shame hit me.
Shame not for this homeless man’s situation, but for people not noticing; perhaps not even caring. He has sat there for weeks, and no one stopped to lend a helping hand. Some even walked away in scorn or turned back so as not to pass him..
I began thinking and putting myself in the shoes of the many passers-by. Secretly, I believe, some wish he would just go away and that they can say he never existed, so they have no need to feel guilty.
You see, my homeless enigma is one of society’s invisible people – the poor, the downtrodden, victims of urban development and inner city decay, victims of circumstances, those who went wayward and are struggling to beg forgiveness. These struggles are common to the whole of humanity, common to our very way of life.
We forget that society’s ‘invisible people’ are part of the human family. They are, like it or not, included in the very fibre of the tapestry of life — the fifth son who is not at the table. The fifth son, who unbeknown to himself, was forgiven long ago and whose space at the table is set, waiting for him.
Humanity, however, is only as strong as its weakest link. In order for us to hold our head up high, the man sitting on the hot pavement needs to be able to do so also.
I dread to think, if my world comes crashing down, if I could muster any dignity or courage to pick myself up. I know of persons who shared how cruel society can be and how quickly one can join the ranks of society’s invisible people when their world caves in.
I now find myself admiring the homeless man on the hot pavement with the deep, penetrating eyes watching the world pass by, bothering no one, asking for nothing, who seems to be battling his own inner turmoil. The dignity he emanates in his defiance by facing the world headlong for all to see. Indeed, his silence is deafening. I now realize I must do something. I find myself reaching out to this broken yet proud, defiant character, and I knew I did the right thing. For lo and behold, I witnessed the transformation of a broken, beaten, washed out human specimen into a warm, teary-eyed individual who now seems to have a purpose. Somehow, he seems regal in stature and stronger in character than all the passers-by who simply quickly rush by. Is that what is meant by giving a helping hand?
Let us look deep within ourselves and recognize the homeless. We should affirm that society should have no invisible people – they are simply the fifth son who is not at the table, who simply has lost his way and needs that helping hand to find his way back home.