Today, a man, appearing to be in his seventies accosted me on the streets. He was handsome for his age – a nice head of gray hair and dressed in that respectable way that our grandparents’ generation still placed value on. A non-digital, metallic Casio sat on his wrist, handsomely complementing his attire. This watch looked like it had been with him for decades. The watch he had probably looked at as he rushed to get to the hospital for the birth of all of his grandchildren, was now being unclasped and eagerly presented for sale. He was trying to sell me his own god damn watch. Do you have any idea what a wristwatch means to a man from that generation? He might as well have been selling me his balls.
Since the onset of the global pandemic, I have lived in three places: Cali, Colombia (7 months), Rio de Janeiro (6 months) and Quito, Ecuador (3 months). These are not the wealthiest countries and each city is characterized by a great deal of inequality. The level of impoverishment among the poorest citizens is extreme and many people in these places live hand-to-mouth, week-to-week or, if they’re a bit better off, month-to-month. I have seen the wrenches tightening on the people in these places. I have seen the streets progressively fill with homelessness like the sands in an hourglass. There is hunger and there is a palpable increase in the level of desperation that fills the air.
I almost broke down in tears and gave him a dollar. (I bet he would have sold it to me for $5). I’m not sure what it’s like where you are, but don’t forget that there are people out there – beyond the scope of your vision – who are anxiously trying to navigate the dire waters that have risen in this new world of ours. Quite a great number, I can assure you.