I had an experience today that left me feeling quite sad, along with feeling frustrated and helpless. I walked down to my local Pollo Loco for lunch and while I was eating, a very scruffy-looking man walked in. Although he wasn't filthy, he wasn't clean either and his close were very worn. As he walked across the restaurant, I noticed that he was talking, rapidly, to himself. He looked around, furtively and then sat down at a table where some food was laid out. He then began to eat some of the food, looking up frequently like an animal watching out for predators. When someone moved towards the table, he rose and left the restaurant. Clearly he had stolen some food from someone who had gotten up to get a drink (the person noticed, but didn't do anything, so I'm not remiss in warning them.)
The man walked out about the same time I did and we stood together at a light, waiting for a walk signal -- the signal was stale, so we were going to have to wait for the red cycle before moving. As soon as the light turned against us, he crossed the street. Thankfully, it was a quiet intersection and nothing happened. After the light changed, I walked some distance behind him, until I had to enter a hardware store on my route, in order to buy something. When I got out, the man was gone.
Clearly, this man is most likely homeless and certainly has some mental problems. He kept up his rapid, quiet self-dialog all of the time that I saw him.
I was first moved by surprise, watching him blatantly steal food, and to his resemblance to a prey animal in his actions. Then I was moved by curiosity, wondering what confluence of fate brought him to this condition. What combination of genes and physical and emotional environment left him as a fragment of what a human being can be? What happened to his family, his parents?
Finally, I got melancholy. I don't know what to do when faced with this reality. Ignore? Intervene? I feel helpless.