Last week I wrote about how I knit a scarf for a homeless man, only to have the gift turned down. While I was pretty disappointed with the story’s outcome, yesterday I witnessed a bittersweet occurrence that almost made up for it. This story may not have worked out for everyone in the end, but I feel like it’s worth noting.
It was fairly late, after the evening rush hour, maybe around 8pm as I was waiting for a Red Line train going towards Shady Grove at Metro Center. As a train was approaching the platform, there was the typical scramble of people lining up to board and let passengers off the train. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of a forgotten scarf laying on the ground behind me. A man called out, asking if it belonged to anyone, and received no answer.
Just then, a woman picked up the scarf and started showing it to people passing by, and asking them if it was theirs. (So much attention to a seemingly mundane scarf!) Amongst all this scarf commotion, stood a homeless man. He had already approached a few people asking them for spare change. He met the woman who held the scarf. She asked him if the scarf was his and he gladly accepted it.
On board the train with me is the homeless man who reeks of alcohol and is donning his newly acquired scarf around his neck. He begins to talk to his fellow passengers, even complimenting a lady on her hat before then asking if it was for sale. (Obviously, this man was aiming to have some warm accessories.)
After a stop or two and the train’s passengers have shuffled about, a man approaches the homeless man and says to him, “You’re wearing my scarf! How’d you get my scarf??” The homeless man simply responds with something like, “Is this your scarf?” which annoys the man who has confronted him. The man who claims to be the scarf’s owner is now perturbed and repeats his question a few times. It gets so heated that it seemed a fight was going to break out.
I debated about interjecting into the confrontation with my being witness to the scarf’s recent journey. But I stop myself, because aside being too shy, I frankly just didn’t want to get involved. Also, since I had no proof that the scarf really did belong to the claiming owner, my story may not have helped. I’m sure the scarf wasn’t actually the homeless man’s, so one could see him as stealing it or lying; but I’ve a feeling that had the scarf just stayed on the ground, it probably would have ended up in a homeless person’s possession anyways.
Sure, it probably would have been right the to speak up. Maybe the scarf had sentimental value to its original owner and perhaps that man really had lost his scarf which was now in the hands of someone else. But I thought of it this way: here was this homeless man who had no scarf versus a man who looked like he could most definitely afford a new one. It was as if the man was unintentionally gifting his scarf to someone who needed it more than him. The fact that there was this unintentional good deed happening, kind of made me feel all right with not intervening. Besides, if I wasn’t able to give the scarf I made to a homeless person, at least in this case, someone was able to give a homeless person a scarf (even if it was an accident.)