Sunday, February 09, 2014
He allowed me to weep and to break, and then to recover. He never wavered and never ran, he just kept loving me, and my heart opened in a way it never had before.
I once traveled to see him only for one night, and before I left the next day, he slipped a note into my bag that I would find when I returned home.
Thank You, it said. For making the trip to spend the evening with me. For sharing your warmth and laughter and intelligence and loving spirit. For giving me your magic, and bringing your nature to me.
He signed it, Your Man
But today, the man who wrote that note, and who taught me what it means to be loved, is only a few miles from my home, yet no where near my door. And part of me wonders, how could this have happened, and the other part of me thinks, this is just how it happens.
Sunday, February 02, 2014
I've always noticed that Sean doesn't hold out a cup or beg for money, nor does he ever complain about the weather. Tonight I asked him about that, and he told me he knew enough people from his years of panhandling in the area, that folks helped him out every day regardless. He also told me what was more important to him, was that this street was the only place he had any sense of community and of belonging. He said that oftentimes people don't give him anything at all but conversation and connection, and that this was his main motivation for traveling so far each day.
"They treat me like a human being up here," he said, "Like I'm just a regular human being."
And sure enough, as we were talking, many obviously well-to-do neighbors walked by and greeted Sean by name, and then just kept walking. And I could tell, regardless of his unimaginable circumstances, how at ease he felt. I could see how important it was to him to be greeted as a neighbor, to be known as a neighbor-not just as a man in tattered clothes, with broken teeth and no legs.
Any way, I could easily go deeper and ask the question, would any one of Sean's "neighbors," including myself, be willing to invite him into our lovely, warm apartments for lunch, and then experience the shame and guilt we would all certainly feel when sending him back to the shelter?
But I won't ask that, because all I was really focused on, humbled and awed by tonight, was how someone can suffer and endure so much for so long, and end up sitting outside on a cold, cold night, hungry, homeless, in wheelchair, and not be broken.
Monday, January 20, 2014
But I learned a lot of things after that year. I learned what I already knew. That the way to teach a child to ride a bike is with patience and tenderness. That the way to teach a dog to stop pulling on the leash is to loosen your grip, give praise, and simply change your direction. I also learned that three years later, I will probably never forgive myself for being with that man, but I will also, in some ways, always be grateful to him. Because he didn't know it, but he actually did teach me something, and it may have been the most valuable lesson of my life.
He taught me that when you find yourself in the midst of madness, you can get out. He taught me that when you live in darkness, you can break free. By showing me the wrong way to live, he allowed me to see the right way to live. The right way to teach your child, to train your dog, and the right way to be loved. And although I already knew it, I just needed to loosen his grip. I just needed to change my direction, and I'm so glad I did. So very glad I did.