The Country We Live In

I saw them first on the train platform. The clean, smiling little girl was bouncing about playing with a balloon animal, being a child, unaware of the world and its problems. A man nearby that I assumed to be her father was digging through a little pink and clear backpack.  I always chuckle when I see juxtapositions like that, as are often presented in this city. What if the girl wasn’t near him? That couldn’t be his backpack. Why not? Don’t we all have things we need to carry?

As the train lumbered down the track, I hear a man’s voice. I could tell it was the beginning of one of the appeals that people make daily to ask for help from riders. I looked up to see this appeal was from the man on the platform with the little pink backpack.

“Excuse me ladies and gentleman for the interruption. We’re homeless right now, living in a shelter,” he said. “If you could help in any way at all with some money or food I would appreciate it.”

His voice trailed off near the end. I wondered what was on his mind.

I don’t know that a train car ever felt quieter than that moment. No one budged. No one would look up at the man. The little girl still was fascinated with the balloon animal right across from me now, bouncing it in the air. The man continued down the train car carrying the little pink and clear backpack and the little girl, still silent and smiling, followed her father.