Last night, I found myself wandering through Brooklyn, taking photos of people and thinking about social human connection and how distant people in New York are from each other. I found it strange that humans, a species who thrive off of connection could be surrounded by so many others yet be so disconnected. All this thinking had made me hungry, so I hopped on the L and headed to Union Square to meet friends and grab some pizza. The plan was to grab a few slices of dollar pizza since funds were getting low and because I was really craving pizza, even though it always end up being a terrible decision for my stomach.
When I got out of the station, I headed towards St. Marks and being that I was so hungry, I paid no mind to where I was walking. I ended up walking down E 17th for awhile before realizing that I was heading in the wrong direction and turned back.
Walking back, I saw the usual sight of poverty and those who sitting on the sides of the street, setting aside all pride to ask strangers for a measly dollar or some leftover food. I always feel terrible walking past, especially if the individual is in actual need and I know I have the means to help them but choose not to for whatever reason. But out of anyone on the streets, they are the ones who I connect with and can relate to the most. I walked by a few individuals before looking down at a girl, a traveler, one who seemed like she had been stuck for some time, who definitely was in need of help. Maybe even just a hug. She held her head low and I could she was at rock bottom. She had a sign that read, “Looking for a miracle.”
As I walked down Broadway, I was stopped by a homeless man. “Could you possibly spare some change, anything. Pennies are fine. I’m hungry. I don’t want beer or drugs or anything like that, just food.” I didn’t even reach for my wallet as I knew I had nothing to offer. “Wait a second,” I said. I reached for my bag to pull out my wallet anyways and before I could the man said, “Please, I don’t need your cigarettes either, just some food.” And it hit me. All these people would eat with me tonight. “I’m sorry, I don’t have any change on me but why don’t I run down the street and buy you some pizza?” He looked up at me, almost a little confused. “Really?! I would be so grateful,” the man said. “I’m Bill! And you?” “Andrew.” “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Andrew,” Bill said. “Likewise. I’ll be back in just a little bit with your food.”
So when I got to 2 Bros. $1 Pizza, instead of just a few slices, I ordered a whole cheese pie and a single mushroom slice for myself. As I ate my first slice of pizza, the man sitting next to me looked over and said something about making sure I didn’t get myself all greasy or something as he stood up to leave. To be honest, I really wasn’t paying attention being that I was so hungry. However, a few seconds later, he came back with a pile of napkins, setting them down next to my box. I thanked him, smiled, he smiled, nodded and said, “You’re welcome.” It felt good. It was that simple human connection we all thrive on.
I quickly finished two more slices, opened up my camera bag and pulled out a marker. The words from the girl’s sign had hit me. “A LITTLE SLICE OF MIRACLE,” I wrote and off I went. My plan was to deliver this pizza to everyone I had passed on my journey here, especially to the girl with the sign, who had partially inspired this evening’s endeavor. I made it my mission to find this girl and answer her call for a miracle. But first, I was off to deliver pizza to Bill.
I made it back to Broadway and looked up the street and hadn’t seen Bill anywhere. As I walked past where he sat, I looked across the road to see another two homeless folks and a dog. I headed in their direction and asked if they would like some pizza. “Yeah, I guess I’ll take a slice,” the man said before he turned around. “Andrew!” It was Bill. “Oh, man, thank you for coming back! Seriously,” he said. “You’re welcome brother, not a problem. You guys stay warm.” As I continued up the street, I realized I was dedicated to the cause. I knew I had to find this girl, but I then realized something; I had no idea where I had seen her, and prior to getting pizza, I had covered a good bit of ground. Nonetheless, I was determined.
I had followed what I thought to be my footsteps, heading up and down the streets but nothing. A few hours had gone by and still nothing. I had circled Union Square multiple times, going up and down literally every surrounding block. Still nothing. I eventually went past a street where I saw a bunch of folks, one who looked like the girl I was searching for. As I approached, I realized I had been wrong but stopped to talked with these individuals anyways. After some brief but interesting spiritual conversation, I had a feeling that these people may have seen or know the girl and decided to ask. “Have any of you folks seen a homeless girl, blonde, with a sign that says, “Looking for a miracle?” “Was she a traveler?,” one man responded, “They were up the stairs, into the park and off to the left.” I was relieved, I was almost there.
So I followed their directions, but again, to no avail. I couldn’t find her anywhere. But as I walked around the corner, another man stopped me as he was making huge bubbles. “Hey man, come join me for some bubble love,” he said. So that’s exactly what I did. His name was Ed. He had lost his job a few years back and decided to spread love through bubbles for a living instead. And what a great job he did. I needed this. A break from my mission, even if it was for just a minute. A girl stopped to laugh and take photos and I convinced her to come and blow bubbles with us. She did. Once again, that essential human connection. It was so easy, how could people lose this?
We introduced ourselves as we parted ways. Catherine was he name. I explained to her my mission as she smiled. She hadn’t seen the girl but wished me luck on my endeavor. I decided to head into the park to see if she had migrated there. Nothing.
My legs were tired from the hours of walking and decided to sit down but as I did, I was lovingly attacked for my pizza by two of the cutest little Pit Bulls; a mother and daughter. Their human friend was Liz. She was a traveler who came from Baltimore but was stranded in New York for some time; homeless as well. I asked if the dogs could share a slice of pizza and she smiled a huge smile. “Really?! Would you?” she asked. “Of course.” I pulled apart the pizza as she explained how to have the dogs behave as they were being given a treat. However, that failed as the dogs were terribly hungry and it gave us a good laugh. She then asked if Starbucks gave out free water and asked if I would watch the pups as she ran across to grab a glass. You could tell she was well dehydrated. I tried to keep them under control but the dogs tried following her instead. “Why don’t I just go buy you a gallon from Duane Reade?” I said. She was so surprised, almost as if nobody had every offered he help before. “Really? Seriously?” “Of course, I’ll be right back.”
When I returned, I gave her the water and looked into my pizza box; one slice remained. I asked her if she would like it and she politely declined. So I began to tear it in half again to give it to her pups. “You really don’t have to, that slice is yours,” she said. “But I’m full already, they aren’t.” And another huge smile came across her face as her dogs ate the pizza. And for the next few hours, Liz and I shared stories of our travels and movement. Some folks nearby overheard us speaking of parkour and came over to join us. You could tell that even though they were constantly surrounded by thousands of people, they were still lonely. But just a few minutes later, I was moving about the park, sharing jumps and a beautiful evening with people I felt needed it; people who understood the importance of being connected and who needed that connection, just as we all do.
I was starting to feel like I had failed because I couldn’t find the girl who had inspired me this evening, and then I realized something. Even though that girl never received the miracle I set out to provide her with, she helped provide little slices of miracles to the people around her. People around her that were also struggling. People who were also looking for a miracle.
I don’t know who you are, or where you are but I thank you. You are a miracle.