( Intermediate Level )
Each day fades into the next for Benjamin. He lives on the streets and calls the sidewalk his bed. People pass him every day and do not give him a second look as if he is a bad person.
If only they knew him in his past. People would not be so easy to judge him. He keeps his eyes lowered and minds his own business. Trying to survive day to day.
Benjamin, once, was a very successful businessman. He had worked in the downtown business district in New York. Now, he shares the streets with so many other homeless people.
He had a loving wife, Anne, and a beautiful eight year old daughter, Katie, until that tragic day six years ago. A day he wished he could rewind and do it all over again.
He remembers that day as if it was yesterday. He woke up late and had a early business meeting. He was rushing around getting dressed when his wife called up the stairs and said , “Breakfast is ready.”
He immediately yelled back, “No time. I have a meeting and I am running late.” He ran downstairs and grabbed his suitcase.
He looked at his wife who was holding a cup of coffee for him. He shook his head and said, “I will get coffee at the office.” He smiled at his daughter and rushed out the door.
His daughter looked at his wife, with a sad face, and said, “Daddy didn’t say I love you to me.” Anne quickly responded, ” He forgot me, too, but daddy is running late for a special meeting. I know he loves you and he would want you to have a good day at school.”
Katie smiled and continued eating her breakfast. Anne gathered Katie’s homework and stuffed it into Anne’s backpack. ” Come on kiddo, finish up so you can be ready when the bus comes. We don’t want you to be like daddy and run late.“
Anne ran upstairs to get her shoes from the bedroom. She would always walk her daughter to the bus stop. Katie quickly followed her up the stairs. She wanted mom to put her hair up in a ponytail.
In the rush of the morning, Anne had forgot to turn off the burner on the stove and take the skillet off the burner. She had made bacon and eggs for breakfast. The pan was too hot to move and she simply forgot to turn off the burner. Her husband had come downstairs just at the moment she had finished cooking the bacon.
As Anne was brushing Katie’s hair up into a ponytail , she looked at her watch and said, “The bus will be here in less than five minutes.”
These were Anne’s last words. The hot grease, from the skillet, had started a fire and an explosion soon followed. In a matter of a few moments the house was engulfed in flames.
This was the day that Benjamin’s life had changed completely. He was given word that his wife and daughter had perished in the fire. He lost everything. His life spiraled downward to a bottomless pit of sorrow.
If only he took a few minutes more to sit down and have a few bites of breakfast with his wife and daughter. He may have realized the burner was left on. He took full blame for their deaths. He shouldn’t had been in such a hurry that morning.
He was unable to concentrate at work. His company was sympathetic for a long time following that day but they had to eventually let him go. He had lived at a hotel since the fire but without work and no money he had to find other means to sleep.
In deep state of depression he couldn’t find work. It felt as if he stopped living when he lost his wife and little girl. This is how Benjamin ended up homeless. This was his story.
The people who walked passed him on a daily basis didn’t know his story. If they could, they would avoid him completely. They would cross the street to reach the other side, in order not to have contact with him.
In some ways Benjamin felt he deserved this. Other times, he felt he shouldn’t be judged so quickly. This is human nature, he guessed. You assume before you know the story.
One late autumn evening, he had found a spot to settle down for the night. He tried to give himself a little variety where he would sleep each night. He usually found an area out of the way of heavy pedestrian traffic but close enough to people where he felt safe.
Sometimes people would drop off a few non-perishable food packages or bring him a sandwich and a hot cup of coffee. Whatever he received he was ever so grateful for. He still had his dignity about him. He never wanted to beg. He felt others needed before him and he didn’t deserve.
Benjamin was drifting off to sleep when he felt as if someone was watching him. He looked up and seen a small framed woman around thirty years old standing over him. She said, ” So mister, you want to tell me your name?” .
There was a street light behind her and as he looked up. It was difficult to make out her face. He said. “Benjamin ma’am.” She bent down and said, “Well Benjamin, my name is Annabel but you can call me Ann.” She reached her hand out for a handshake.
Benjamin just stared up at her. He had not heard that name in a long, long time. His mind drifted back to memories of the past until she began to talk again. “I believe everyone deserves a second chance and I am needing workers for my printing factory.”
“I am not asking for free labor, you will be paid. Nor am I asking for hard labor. I need a few good hires to supervise the machines, as they print, and keep watch of the place at night. Are you interested?”
Without thinking, Benjamin’s answer was, “Yes, ma’am.” He had sat up by now and saw Ann’s face. She had a warm smile and beautiful chocolate – colored eyes. Just like his Anne.
“Alright then Mister Benjamin. I will be back tomorrow early in the morning. You will not need to worry about anything. You will have simple accommodations at the factory where you can sleep and cook. Nothing fancy but you will stay warm. Once you get on your feet you can make other arrangements to where you want to sleep.”
She turned and glanced back at him before she walked away, “See you tomorrow at seven in the morning. We can discuss all the details on our way to the factory.” She had turned the corner and disappeared.
Benjamin sat there just staring down the street where she had disappeared. He thought to himself, “Out of all the places I decided to hunker down for the night, he had picked this particular spot. What were the odds? Maybe this was the break he was needing. Maybe, this Miss Annabel was sent by Anne to turn his life around.”
Written by: Angel
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fades – verb: disappear
judge – verb: opinion or conclusion
district – noun: area of a city
rewind – verb: back to the beginning
ponytail – noun: a hairstyle
engulfed -verb: sweep over something, surround or cover
perished – verb: sudden death
spiraled – verb: continuous and dramatic increase
sorrow – noun: a feeling of deep distress caused by loss
sympathetic – adjective: feeling sympathy
assume – verb: without proof
variety – noun: state of being different
pedestrian – noun: person or people walking along a road or street
grateful – adjective: showing an appreciation of kindness
dignity – noun: worthy of honor or respect
hires – noun: one who is hired
supervise – verb: observe or watch
accommodations – noun: temporary lodgings
on your feet – phrasal verb: well enough
glanced – verb: quick look
hunker down – phrasal verb: stay in one place
particular – adjective: special
Are you quick to judge people by first impressions?
Are there many homeless in your city?
Do you believe people deserve a second chance?