Joan's Blog

"Watch Me Pull A Rabbit Out Of My Hat"
APRIL 6, 2012 6:30PM

Good Friday on the "L"

Rate: 40 Flag

The "L" is moving along towards downtown Chicago on this Good Friday. It is not yet too crowded, only a couple of people are standing. I am looking out the window, reading the graffiti, wondering if the people living by the tracks just get used to the sound of a train going by every few minutes. 

At the next stop, a young man gets on. He tells us in a loud and clear voice that he needs our attention. I look up at him. He tells us again, I need your attention.  People continue texting or reading. It's just another nut on the train. I  look at his face while he tells the silent, mostly disinterested crowd that he needs our help. 

I need your help. I know I sound crazy or pathetic, but I'm broke and I'm hungry and I need a bus ticket home. I have nowhere to go. My girlfriend broke up with me, I've got nothing left, and even though my father probably won't let me in the door I'm just a fuck-up in his eyes, and maybe I am, but I've got nowhere else to go. 

My eye goes from his face to his left hand. He keeps it in his jacket pocket. He never lets go of whatever it is in his left pocket.

I know most of you don't care, look, most of you won't even look at me, but I'm begging you. I'm at the end. I've got nothing. I'm asking you people for anything. Something to eat, or a little money for bus fare. The ticket is twenty dollars, I've got eighteen and change... 

He continues on for a few more sentences, and never takes his hand out of his jacket.

Someone stands up and gives him a sandwich. He takes it and thanks the man. One by one, people get out of their seats and hand him some money. First one, then another and then another. It is choreographed so that only one person is up at a time.  There is some crazy holy feeling to this procession. We give our offering, and sit back down. I give him mine and look into his face. He's just a kid. I sit back down in my seat. The next stop is mine. I am one of the sea of people walking up the stairs out into the daylight. He is walking  into the daylight too. He has a sandwich and a few dollars. 

He sits on the curb and sobs.







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Wow Joanie. Powerful story. Thanks for your beautiful writing, and a beautiful moment.
Damn it, all this heartbreak and people falling apart. I want to sit down and sob too. I wish you hadn't had to write this, beautifully or otherwise, joan.
Chicago, the city of big shoulders, first hand, on the El. In the Loop. Grasp your life line to humanity, all aboard.
Froggy, candace, thank you for coming over to read this evening xo

Sheila, Oh, I wish I had written that comment.
A big Yes, to Sheila's "Big Shoulders" comment; there are reasons they call this the heartland! A lovely sad and infinitely important. So Rated. xo
lovely sad and infinitely important STORY...blasted gremlins
There but for the grace of...
I read this three times, Joan. Powerful writing. Gut-wrenching story. His desperation just tears at my heart.
Amazing that everyone participated. I am so cynical i was waiting for you to say he was pullimg a gun out of that pocket. Rrrrrr
great story. restores a bit of hope and that's a good thing right now. i'm not liking the way i've been feeling about the world lately...not my own little world of family and friends...but the greater world that seems insane.
Most people don't even look up when someone begs for food. I am glad that you not only looked up but saw his face and made him real.
This is one of those really amazing moments we get to live from time to time. You told it plainly and eloquently and it will touch many people. Thanks.
I am glad you looked at him. Maybe his tears will help too.
Mostly I don't give anything but I can see how it would have been hard to say no in this case. Imagine how desperate you'd have to be to start crying out like that.
Wooo. That last line is a lightning bolt. And it illuminates every sentence that comes before it. Wooo.
Joan you did this perfectly, I could see him on the curb and it made me cry. I know you love this but do you know how really good you are at it? R
Muse, thank you for coming by.

jmac, so many desperate people out there. thanks for reading.

Little Kate, the whole thing was astonishing and heartbreaking.

Bea, the procession of people who helped him was unlike anything I'd seen before. And no, you are not cynical. I thought we were all going to witness something horrific any minute.

Mime, it's good to witness people doing good. :)

nilesite, it was a powerful few moments in time.

Marty's Husband, really amazing is just what it was. Thanks for reading.

dianaani, I'll be thinking about this for a long time.

Abrawang, exactly. He had to have been as he said, "at the end."

Chicken Maan, thank you for coming by tonight.

hugs, me, I appreciate your kind words so much.
Maybe he didn't like the sandwich.
Larry, I think your hat is too tight.
Oh man. Oh man oh man oh man. ** Reaches for Kleenex **
A great Good Friday story, Joan, nicely shared.
I am reminded of the parable of the prodigal son. May his father receive him with open arms and open heart.
Those on the train need to remember 'he who saves a life, saves the world.'. They have all feed the hungry, gave hope. Even if the man weeps, he will go on. Because of all of you.
You manage to pack a lot of punch in a relatively small space. Good stuff, well done.
A beautiful piece. I think I may have seen the same guy. I keep some $1 bills for encounters such as these on the CTA and in the streets. Since I'm on Social Security, the number of $1 bills has to be limited. I go through those bills pretty quick.
That was a wonderful moment that you have shared with us. I hope I can be that generous when called upon.
An amazing story and amazingly told. I hope he was able to go home.
Wow, life is tough. Im so glad you helped.
I was going to say wow too but froggy said it. But great story.
wow, a whole life captured in such consise detail. Dad used to tell me never turn away someone in dire straits, they could be an angel in disguise. Happy Easter!
A glimmer into one bit of the sadness that permeates this world. Nicely done.
Thanks for sharing this in your beautifully reflective voice. There are two positives here--people were willing to share and that the young man still had hope that people would.
Well done Joan! Through your eyes and words you capture so very much and share it all so clearly.
Thank you for this and have a wonderful Easter.
Hope and humanity in hard times. Nicely done.
I hope that he made it home, or somewhere where there is love, for Easter.
That is powerful. Lovely writing. Most people would've ignored him. I was worried he had something dangerous in his pocket.
Well, that sure tells an Easter story through one life.
I am so, so sorry I won't get to meet you this weekend. I know I will some day.
What a lovely response from the people on the L. I hope this young man can find his way. Thank you for sharing this, Joanie H.
Thank you everyone for reading and commenting. I will be back later...@Lea, I am so sorry I will miss you this time. There will be a next time for sure. xo
Good to read this.
~~when a mish-mash collection of humanity comes together and spreads a little of its own light.....rare moments, and so worthy of being captured--which you did. I'm just glad that I get the chance to read about it...
You have the most interesting life. Thank you for sharing this ray of hope.
This was beautiful and broke my heart. I hope this guy was telling the truth, and that he gets that ticket and gets out of there. I hope eventually his life will take a turn for the better.
This was in fact a holy experience. Wow, Joan. This is so near and dear to the truth of what religion and god is about. Great piece about something that just is so close to what is true and real.
In a few beautiful words you describe a huge ugly problem. Just heartbreaking, the horrible plight of too many of our citizens. Where has our hope gone?
I'm glad people helped I hope he makes it...
I once had a moment like this on the Metra line. I hit a rough patch and had no money to get me home. A few wonderful people pitched in and bought my ticket. Gotta love Chicago! Tough, yet sensitive when they need to be.
A sad story, beautifully told.
Your good and today you deserve my special sandwhich!
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............... *•.¸.•* ♥⋆★•❥ Thanx & Smiles (ツ) & ♥ L☼√Ξ ☼ ♥
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Thank you everyone, I appreciate the comments. I meant to come back to answer personally, but I've been derailed. Yes, bad pun intended...