OPINION: Interurban cars are looking good
A few years ago, I was in Washington, D.C. for work. It was my first time there, so I decided to see the monuments on our one free evening. My coworkers were too exhausted and most had seen the monuments, so I gabbed my backpack and struck out on my own.
I caught the subway nearby, and managed to navigate my way to the monument district.
On the street, I located the monuments on my phone and started walking. But, I got turned around pretty quickly, and couldn’t tell if I was walking towards or way from the monuments. It’s hard to tell much when you’ve been reduced to a pulsing blue dot.
It started to rain lightly, and I couldn’t seem to figure out which way to go. Frustrated by my phone, I stopped under an awning to get my bearings.
But, I just couldn’t seem to figure out where I was. As I stood there, trying to figure out which way was up, a voice spoke to me.
“Young man, don't worry. It will all work out.”
I looked up from my phone to see a homeless man walking up to me.
“Don’t worry,” he said again. “What do you need?”
Like most people, my first response was apprehension. I was lost and alone in a strange town, and I was being approached by not just a stranger, but a homeless man.
But, I’m not inclined to judge people by appearances or by their struggles. Besides, I needed help and wasn’t too proud to ask.
“Can you tell me how to get to the Washington Monument?”
“I’ll do better than that,” he said. “I’ll take you there!”
So, we set off together… in exactly the opposite direction I had been walking. My phone had clearly led me astray.
As we walked, he told me about himself and about Washington, D.C.
His name was Deangelo, and he’d lived in Washington his entire life, mostly with his mother, but she was now gone, and he missed her very much.
He said that, as a child, he used to run home from school because he loved his mother so much. He also told me that he’d been picked on as a child, but that his mother always got him through it.
My mother had passed away just a few years before. The pain was still fresh, and I told Deangelo sincerely that I was sorry for his loss.
We walked quietly for a bit after that.
He pointed out some pretty impressive landmarks along the way, including a church where Abraham Lincoln had gone to church (verified by a plaque).
He smiled and said hello to people we passed. Some responded, most didn’t.
At some point, I realized that most of the people passing us probably thought we were both homeless. I hadn’t planned it, but I was walking the streets of Washington with a homeless man; literally walking a mile in his shoes.
I saw the way that people looked at us. Of course, I knew that the difference between us was that at the end of the night, I would be in a comfortable hotel bed. Deangelo would not be so fortunate.
So, we walked, and talked, and then we turned a corner and there was the Washington Monument.
It was my first time to see it, and I was excited and grateful, because I had been so lost, and Deangelo had guided me safely, just like he promised he would.
I thanked him for his help, and I gave him what cash I had, about $20.
He hugged me and called me “brother.”
And, we parted ways.
I spent the rest of the evening, well into the night visiting the monuments. I saw the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Wall. I walked humbly through history until I eventually made my way back to the subway and eventually back to my hotel room. I collapsed in my big, warm, bed at about 3 a.m., and had to wake up at 7 a.m. But, it was worth it.
I woke up the next day, dragged myself into the shower, and got ready for another day. I thought a lot about Deangelo, but it wasn’t until I was almost dressed that I realized what his name meant.
He had shown only kindness to me and to everyone he passed, even people who shunned him.
He found me when I was lost and got me to my destination safely.
His name was Deangelo, which literally means “of the Angels.”