We Were Boys Once
Thirty years ago, I was an eight year old growing up in Scarborough, Ontario. Wayne, was a ten year old running around the back roads of his home town in Jamaica. At the age of innocence, neither of us would dream of being in this moment for the reasons our paths would cross. As a child embraced in the warmth of Jamaica, he didn’t aspire to be a Canadian without a home in the middle of frigid winters for last 22 years. As a kid, I never imagined that I would use a camera to tell the stories of men and women forgotten and invisible on the street corners of this city.
From a distance, I saw his energy, friendly, determined, eager, starving and most of all wanting to be acknowledged and noticed in any manner given by those passing by. He caught me shooting him, he smiled, he yelled “How do I look?” my response “You look beautiful”, astonished, he laughed “Hell, no one has ever called me beautiful before”. Of course, this was an opportunity for him to knock on my pockets for change, I dropped him a couple quarters, it was all I had at the moment. Wanting to give him more, I told him I was headed for lunch and would be right back with some more change. He asked where I was going, I showed him the hot dog vendor down the street. “Do you mind if I join you for lunch instead of change? I’m hungry, been awhile since I’ve had a hot dog”.
We made our introductions at the shake of our hand’s, we walked toward the hot dog cart. We were no longer men divided by social or financial status, we were two newly acquainted strangers from different walks of life about to share lunch. He lowered his cup of change, we ordered up our hot dogs, complaining to one another that the price had gone up by fifty cents, Wayne was no longer in pursuit of money, not only was he starving as I watched him devour the hot dog in a few bites proving that hunger. Aside from the food, he was starving for a human moment. In fact, the entire time he and I were together, he didn’t beg or request money from anyone. He was intent on giving me his undivided attention.
We stood at Toronto’s busiest intersection at Yonge and Dundas St, sharing stories about our childhood, eating our hot dogs. Once our hot dogs were finished, I offered up a couple of cigarettes to help pass the time, we fumbled through our pockets to find our lighters, both of mine failed, he found his, success, we had fire: he lit my cigarette. He shared his appreciation many times for the hot dog, for the cigarettes, the conversation, he asked me to come by and see him again tomorrow. I hope I do run into him again. I could use another hot dog. When it was time to part, he shared his thought “Everything is going to be alright for you tomorrow” You know what? I believe him. He leaned in, gave me a hug, rather than recoil or retreat, I caught him back. After all, we were boys of innocence once, both of us still believe that tomorrow will be better.
To my viewers,
It is bittersweet to share this story with you, I am happy to share this, it’s a good story. I am saddened that I am doing this from the warmth of my bedroom while Wayne is huddled on a steam vent this evening somewhere on a west Toronto sidewalk in attempt to keep warm. Tomorrow, please do something different. Acknowledge someone stuck on the street, give them five minutes of your time. If you can, buy them a coffee, buy them a hot dog. Anything small, but, spend five minutes with them, don’t just run.