It is often thought that homeless people cannot be beneficial to other members of the society. I was not an exception. Furthermore, it was my view that such people who live on the streets belong in homeless shelters and thus need to be immediately wiped out and placed in these facilities for the rest of their lives. Usually, I considered it an eyesore whenever I spotted some of them especially since a few were situated in my neighborhood. Nevertheless, I always had something to eat that I offered them on my way to and from work. A foul smell emanated from their sleeping lair while they wore tattered clothes that barely covered their frail bodies. Amazingly, they were able to brave the cold weather during the nights, but they could be seen huddling around a fireplace every morning. Even though I had a disdain for them, I never showed it outrightly.
Late one Friday evening, I drove by the same road that I had constantly used when heading home from my workplace. As usual, I slowed down close enough to hand them a pack of fruits from some of the grocery shopping in the car and headed straight home. The darkness outside was eerie, and a slight wind billowed from side to side as I approached my driveway. It had been a tiresome day, so all I could think about was having dinner and enjoying a good night’s sleep. Little did I know that I would stay awake for almost the entire night. The car ground to a halt and I stepped out hurriedly. Bolting to the door, I embraced my wife who had stood at the porch to welcome me home, and we quickly settled for dinner with our children. After catching up on the day’s activities with them, they went to sleep. Then we retreated to our room for what we thought would be a good night. It was hardly 1:00 AM when I was woken up by a loud bang on my bedroom door. Though I could not see through the pitch darkness, I could hear the door slam down hard on the floor and splinter into several pieces. Almost momentarily, my wife woke up as I groped the walls looking for the light switch. Suddenly, a heavy hand grasped my throat and violently threw me back onto the bed. Having landed on my back, I began to writhe in pain and unexpectedly, the lights went on. The illumination from the chandelier was so bright that it blurred my vision although I could make out two to three men in the room. I could also hear my wife screaming. Shortly thereafter, we were dragged downstairs, unaware of what would happen next.
It was terrifying to see our children, with hands tied behind their backs crying for help yet I knew that I was powerless. We were bound with masking tape and placed in one corner of the living room as our attackers ransacked the entire house. Actually, we stared in disbelief as the phone cable was cut signifying our excommunication from any form of outside help. Similarly, they brandished guns openly while their perceived leader walked briskly around the room intimidatingly. Surprisingly, they rummaged through the dustbin and this was quite perturbing. With the whole house in a total mess and having not found what they were looking for, they menacingly approached me and only said one word ,“stocks”. I stared blankly in his face, puzzled by his question but he furiously punched me in the face and threatened to shoot me.
I was devastated to see my family under such immense pressure and siege. The pain from the battering that we had received had not subsided yet there was a constant threat of more force from our assailants. It became clear that they did not want any money or jewellery-all they wanted was my share of stock options in the company. I replied in the negative and that enraged them. Truthfully, the stock certificates were located in a safe deposit box in one of the commercial banks hence the only way out was for them to accompany me the following day. Therefore, they kept pacing up and down as the leader made frantic phone calls asking for permission to eliminate us. At that point, I tried to say a silent prayer but in vain. So far, the ending of our ordeal seemed ominous and any minute from then, we knew that the worst could happen since we had all been blindfolded. I made a point of telling my family how much I loved them. We were all led to separate rooms and I recall being bundled into the attic. The door was shut and except for my whining, there was no iota of noise from either my room or the adjacent one. After what seemed an eternity, I heard a fierce confrontation downstairs. Crawling to the direction of the door, I heard gunshots and cringed. It was a confusing moment since no one could tell whether the attackers were turning against each other or more scarily, executing members of my family. Thus, this thought alone sent shivers down my spine as well as made me breathe rapidly in short throbs as I gasped for air. More shots could be heard and that heightened the fear in me. Moreover, there was a palpable tension in the air because I was resigned to my fate.
When the attic was forcefully opened, I heard someone shout “police” before I was gently pulled from my hiding place and escorted downstairs. Upon being removed the blindfold, a swarm of police officers were everywhere around the house. Elatedly, I ran to my family and hugged them tightly as tears rolled down my face. Clearly, we were happy to have survived what could be considered a nightmarish night. As some of the law enforcement officials processed the crime scene, others debriefed my family and that is when I got to know about Jackson. Standing in the doorway was one of the homeless men whom I had interacted with on a daily basis. Even though the mood was somber, I could not help but smile at the heroic deed he had done. He had heard the screams from the house. Amazingly, he had run across the street in search of any nearby patrol car and swiftly informed them of vantage points for a stake out. Consequently, the officers on duty had requested for reinforcements from a special tactical team capable of handling hostage situations. Luckily, we were able to be rescued without any serious injuries. Henceforth, I changed my perception of homeless people. I began to recognize that they too were valuable members of the society who could be relied upon for programs such as the neighborhood watch. As a result, I had a conviction that the stereotypes about them are unfair and inhuman. Therefore, the profound lesson I learnt is that homeless people are also human and besides their circumstances, they can make the difference between an individual’s life or death.
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