Last night we met AJ. He was sitting on a bench in the Prudential Center in Boston with his shopping cart next to him, mostly full of empty plastic bags. We approached him and asked how he was doing? He replied in a soft and slight Jamaican accent, and with a smile that would melt your heart, "Well, I suppose I have been better, but all in all.........okay." We found out that AJ used to be a civil engineer on the "Big Dig" (An infamous construction project in Boston). He was making a good living until an accident took his sight. What happened in between, we will never know. But, there he was on a bench, in the dead of winter, with a cart full of plastic bags. I had so many questions for AJ, but ultimately left with most unanswered. I wanted to know where "his people" were? Where were his friends, his family, his former neighbors, and co-workers? When I asked him if he had any friends in the area he said, "No, they are gone now." What does that mean? Where did they "go?" I asked if he had a place to stay. He said that a man takes him in at night and reads him the bible. He talked about books and film, obviously educated and well-spoken - I could have talked with him all night. We handed him one of Abby's homemade blankets, (She wanted him to have the one with the horses on it.) a copy of my book, some cash, and a wish for better days ahead. A piece of my heart stayed there with him on that bench as we walked away, with our full bellies and shopping bags in hand. How did his community let him fall through the cracks? He is someone's son, someone's brother, someone's friend. We left with absolute certainty about a few things; we are blessed, we will never let that happen to anyone we know, and we are better people for having had a conversation with AJ.
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