As I took my trash downstairs and out into the alley to place into the bins, I noticed that not only am I on a routine, Oscar Ramirez, a transient resident of Inglewood for the past 7 years is also on a tight schedule.
I stopped recycling since the hassle of hauling plastic and glass to the recycling center produces much less dividends than it costs to buy and haul, so I throw it all out in the garbage if no one will claim it. Oscar pushed his old shopping cart through the alley. I stopped him, and offered him what I had. As he approached and began making room for the handful of plastic that I gave him, he jubilantly said, “Thanks, I almost got enough for my Lamborghini.” It caught me off guard. I told him I was a few coins behind him, and we shared a laugh.
The conversation switched gears and he asked me if I thought Lebron was better than Jordan. Being that there are die-hard Jordan fans who will literally fist fight over this particular field of conversation, I took the political road and explained that the two players played in two different eras of the game. I explained if Lebron played in the 90’s with the frame and skill set he has today, he’d be the most dominant player in the league hands down and Jordan would take a back seat. He replied, “Yeah, but that’s not what this game is about, see people think it’s about the stats, it’s not about the stats, it’s about the will, it’s about the heart and soul, when the game is on the line, will you buckle under pressure, or will you rise to the occasion?”
He then began explaining to me, “A lot of people see me and think, ‘Look at this guy, he’s a bum, he took the easy way out.’ But little do they know, I’m up at the crack of dawn, fighting, working, for whatever I get, while the rest of the world sleeps. I’ll be back on my feet, if it takes me 30 years, I’ll be back, because I have it in here.”
Our conversation was brief, but not only did it provide me with insight into who’s the better player between Jordan and Lebron, but it became more and more clear that the resilience of the human spirit is one that inspires hope, transformation, and a strong feeling of privilege. He may not have the luxuries we often take for granted, and he may not be native to this city, but he’s 27 years old, homeless, attending job training seminars at El Camino College, manages to remain humble, in positive spirits, and optimistic of his future. He’s got the heart of a champion.
*(I asked him if I could photograph him, but he declined having his picture taken, but granted me permission to tell the story of our conversation.)