Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Reflection: Down and Out

I was cleaning out a shelf the other day. This is not news in itself, but I was applying my usual "cleaning out" technique I have used since childhood.

As I pulled things off the shelf, I looked through every single item. I might have even read a book. It's hard to resist such treasures.

While looking through the books, I ran across a journal. I have journaled quite a bit through my life...though not as frequently over the past few years. I tend to leave my rambling for the blog.


This journal wasn't filled with my day to day lamentations. Instead it was filled with reflections. One particularly touched me. Not because I had written so eloquently, but because I remember the occasion vividly.

We were living in the Memphis, TN area at the time. I dated my entry January 19, 2000.

I think it's appropriate during this time of year to count our blessings. To be thankful for what we have and use what we have to bless others. I see so many suffering in our world. How can I possibly be discontent with my warm home, full belly and fuzzy socks?

Here is what I wrote.

I had seen the homeless before. Shabby, ragged, grizzled. Old men, old women. Grizzled young men, frazzled young women. I knew the moment I saw him that he was somewhere in between the old and the young. Shabby, ragged, grizzled....hopeless. 

He was sitting on the green iron patio furniture outside the health food market. What an odd combination. The busy professionals in their suits and ties picking up their bottled water and sushi. The enlightened college crowd with their organic yogurt and sprouted grains. 

Then there was the homeless man with his torn coat and matted hair. He spoke to me softly. All he needed was $1.20. He assured me he didn't drink and thanked me for being so polite to him. 

Was I polite? Could he sense that I was uncomfortable? His eyes. They were infected. Swollen and runny. I wondered at the past indignations he had suffered. I sat down my recycled paper bag full of grains and nuts and quickly scrapped up every spare cent from the bottom of my purse, the pockets. I dumped the assorted coins into his cupped hand and apologized for all the change. 

He continued to thank me profusely and wandered back to the green patio furniture to sit back down. He hunkered over that bit of change...carefully counting it. 

Then he was gone. 

I imagined this was a daily routine for him. Begging for his breakfast, lunch and supper. I wondered about his life. Had his life before the streets been a normal one? Had he been happy? I wondered about what could have pushed to the streets. Dependency? Insanity? Life? 

It disturbed more than I would have thought.  I lay cuddled in my safe warm bed, in front of my color television set with my faithful cat. I am anticipating breakfast from a stocked fridge. I am ashamed of my discontentment, my anxiety, of my worry. Regardless of my trials and tests I have been blessed. Though not with health, but with healing. Though not with riches, but with comfort. Mostly, I've been blessed with hope. I pray that hope for that suffering man. May he find peace.

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