(With $5 in cash and $6 metro card the fellows were sent out into NYC to spend the day – this is an excerpt of my experience)

My friends and I were trying to find a shelter that was close by. As we walked along, we met Charles who had a table setup on the street that read United Homeless Organization. We felt that it would be best if we asked Charles where the shelter was. Now, why would Charles try to help us? What could we ask him such that he would give us the address of the shelter? So my friends posed as homeless people stirred up a conversation with Charles asking him for help. When he came to know we were homeless there was an instant sense of connection he felt with us. Even though he did not know the exact location he started to think how he could help us. Just as he was thinking of options, his friend Anthony walks by. He shouts out, Anthony, can you please help these folks? Can you give them directions to the shelter? Anthony says Sure, why dont I just walk with you to the shelter, I am going there anyways? Thats how I met Anthony!

Anthony was a tall, skinny, curly haired man. His cheek bones protruding out almost like those youd find amongst native Indians. He was wearing a denim jacket and trousers with sneakers that looked fairly new. I started walking with Anthony and I introduced myself and he did the same. What follows is an excerpt of my conversation with Anthony.

He said My real name is Yusuf Ali and I am from Puerto Rico (same as Charles, whom we had met earlier).

He also indicated that he had some heritage from Saudi Arabia. This background was certainly intriguing. We continued our conversation.

I asked What about your family? Where are they? Do you have any kids?

He said I have eight children six boys and two girls. They all lived with my wife in Brooklyn and my parents also lived nearby.

I asked Anthony where do you work? Or what do you do for a living?

He said I conduct seminars on HIV/AIDS throughout New York city, about three or four seminars per day. He kept talking and I kept listening.

He said I used have a nice Audi A6 which I sold and bought a house for my parents as I wanted them to live nicely. Whats in a car, I can always earn money again to buy it, but my parents should be living well? As Anthony was talking, I was just thinking to myself. Does he really want anything different than I do? A good life where kids, wife and parents are all taken care of, isnt it?

I continued the conversation; I said Would you like this Biscotti, it goes well with the coffee? How long ago did you come to America?

He took the biscotti, put it in his jacket pocket and continued talking I grew up in this country. In fact, I was in the army, in the special forces unit. I was very good at rope climbing. They (the army) had trained me and sent me to Iraq when the war began. But I tell you, I dont like Bush, he is really a trouble maker.

All this while we were walking along and my friends were following us. We perilously crossed the road without any regards to the traffic on it as if we were in our own world. Just as we crossed the road, Anthony excused himself and entered a pharmacy store. I waited outside the pharmacy patiently. He was in the store for nearly fifteen minutes. He came out ignored me and started walking away. I walked up to him and tapped him on his shoulder with a hope to continue our conversation. We walked a few steps quietly. Just as we reached a crossing Anthony took a turn and went off. I didnt know what had happened between him entering the store and returning but it certainly seemed like he was in no mood to talk to me any more.

I continued walking alone thinking about Anthony, who was he? What did he want in life? What did I want in life? I dont have these answers, but I can say this all my life I have lived on the hope of doing better than what I am doing or where I have been in life and that has kept me going. Was Anthony telling me the things hed like in life? Was he living in the hope that hed have a eight children, comfortable life for his parents? I can only hope to answer his questions. I can only hope that Anthony gets what he desires in life.

As Aristotle rightly put it Hope is the dream of a waking man.

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