Friday, December 30, 2016
Urban Outdoorsman, Chicago, IL
It’s that winter holiday time of the year and summer vacation camping trips are becoming a distant memory. Families are gathering near and pleasant music emanates from carolers, choirs, and electronics everywhere. Just about everyone we meet and greet is filled with good cheer.
As I rode in the back of a warm taxi driving into downtown Chicago from O’Hare airport, the driver suddenly swung out into the right lane on our turn off the interstate. The cabbie behind us had the same idea at the same time and we clipped bumpers. We only drove down the exit ramp a short while until traffic was stopped and the offended cabbie swung out onto the shoulder and unloaded a tirade of four letter words. My driver responded in kind and the testosterone had now kicked into overdrive! I had my smart phone in hand and momentarily considered videoing the drama, but the possibility of gun play immediately shut down that thought. My next thought was to place my hand on the seat belt release so that I could hit the floor! Fortunately, the light changed and we moved on out of harm’s way. City streets can be welcoming, but we should always be aware of its dangers as well.
Another traffic light turned red as we drove under an overpass bridge. The Christmas weather was turning predictably below freezing and the ubiquitous Chicago winds were swirling through the overpass in typical Bernoulli speeds, scattering the freshly fallen snow. I glanced out the back window to spy a small pup tent erected in this somewhat sheltered but sketchy location. There was no sign of life, but the presence of boxes and trash outside indicated the tent was occupied.
I’ve heard of a homeless man on the streets of Chicago who people buy coffee for every morning that calls himself the Urban Outdoorsman. He’s a man that has maintained a sense of humor despite his circumstances. I wondered if this could be him. I wondered if he was a homeless veteran or someone with a mental illness that has been turned out by our healthcare system or someone that is simply a victim of circumstances. We all seem to be more aware of these disadvantaged people during the Christmas holidays, but many of these folks desperately need aid once the harsh reality of January arrives.
It’s been said that “the only time we should be looking down on another human being is when we’re helping them up”.