Understanding love on Valentine’s Day

first_imgI soon learned that within the group of eight of us who had come to the game was this homeless man’s own daughter – Karen’s niece – who hadn’t seen her father but twice in the past four years, and not at all in the six years prior. “I almost didn’t recognize you,” he told Karen. “I know you didn’t,” she responded. Karen’s simple “How are you?” spawned the heartbreaking details of this man’s so-called life. “I just got out,” he stated, lifting his sleeve to display a prison bracelet still clinging to his wrist. He’d just spent upward of a year behind bars for manslaughter. Now he stood before us, not-so-gaunt-looking (prison had fattened him up a bit, Karen speculated). He walked with us to the parking structure to see his daughter, who had already made her way to the car. We all tried to step aside and give them some room to catch up. Their reunion lasted a minute maybe. Once inside the car, the tears came. For several of us. His daughter: “I’d rather not see him at all than see him this way. My mother died of a drug overdose. When I have kids, they won’t see any of that. I will give them a different life.” Karen: “It would have killed my mom to see her son this way.” Me: “No one is a lost cause.” Karen and her niece were visibly moved – but were, for all intents and purposes, accustomed to this. I wasn’t. “Where will he go now?” I asked Karen, half wondering why she wasn’t scooping him up into the Suburban with us and taking him back to safety in suburbia. “Back on the streets,” she said. She added that he looked as if he was “on” something. “How is that possible?” I asked. Drug-free in prison for over a year and the instant he gets out, the addiction kicks in again? “Yes,” was her answer. I guess some addictions lie dormant and never truly die. She said she could sense that he wanted to ask her for money, but that even if he had, she didn’t have cash in her wallet. I won’t pretend to be so noble that I returned home and instantly signed up to volunteer at a homeless shelter. But I was moved to do something. I will challenge myself this Valentine’s Day to contemplate what it means to truly “love” something, or better yet, someone. Do I really know the definition of “love”? And am I living out that definition? After all, it’s much easier to “love” the athlete in the arena than the homeless man outside of it. Elizabeth Sandoval is an L.A.-based writer/performer.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! LOVE is not a true virtue unless one loves the unlovable, right? After all, it’s quite easy to “love” your puppy or your new cell phone or the Chicago Bears, but it is quite another concept to actually direct love, or deep affection, toward, say, a homeless person. On a recent night, a group of us had just vacated $25 nosebleed seats at Staples Center and made our way outside when my friend “Karen” informed us, “That’s my brother behind you.” We turned to find a homeless man. last_img