My Homeless Friend!
The first time I saw him he sat still like a mendicant in dusty black clothes with his back pasted against a red brick wall. It was late autumn and the receding sun lit up his dark black skin and gorgeous features. His eyes were bright and looked like two lamps set sailing in dark waters. He did not have his baseball cap out begging for small change nor did he call out to people walking by, he was not needy even if he was in need and maybe it was this quality in him that drew me. I reached out for a dollar bill and handed it out which he accepted slowly and said, “God bless you!”
Ever since that unexpected introduction it has been a tradition of mine to remember to hand my change to him and receive his blessing.
For the longest time he didn’t seem to notice, he didn’t seem to recall, he didn’t seem to recognize and I simply assumed that he could not. There were those days that his desperation had reached its peaks, when he yelled out like an animal in pain, he begged like a soul barred of humiliation, he cried out like a new born knowing no shame and even on those rare days he blessed whole heartedly those that emptied their tights palms and fed him with what ever it was that he needed most.
On one evening after a long and tiring day, I rushed to the train station to get back home. My mind was too preoccupied with this particularly difficult instructor whose class I had signed up for and our silent hostility towards each other. All of my hard, devoted and undying effort in her class had been undermined once again and my heart was heavy while my mind danced with doubts of my capabilities. As usual I identified him, my homeless friend, at a distance. I pulled out my pocket change and handed it to him. He was loud when he said, “That’s my baby girl, God bless you my baby!” Then I heard him chant, “That’s my baby girl”, until I did not disappear onto a different street! My mood changed instantly, I forgot all about the difficult instructor and now I had a new bond with another unknown human being.
Our relationship matured and this acknowledgement given and received was constant, though on days it was not clear who the giver was and who the receiver.
It was a particularly cold winter afternoon. I was worked to the bone and my depression had set in quiet thickly. My footsteps were heavy and my enthusiasm was dwindling as well. Close to exhaustion I stepped out of the train, dragging my feet and walked slowly towards school. The class with the sour instructor made me exhausted, I had no more psychic energy to dole out to our unspoken battle and I was war weary. The weather was brutal and I could not fathom how he withstood it, sitting out there in the open and protected only by the kindness of strangers. He sat bundled in old clothes and comforters his baseball cap laid out before him, he was cold and in visible discomfort. The golden one Dollar coin that I tossed into his cap, sunk low and the pennies that were already in there quickly covered it. “What? Did you give me a penny, go fuck yourself!” he yelled out.
I am sure there are many who have wanted to tell me that but hearing it out aloud, said to my face, on the street, and the sheer irony of it made me of all things buckle down with laughter. My depression peeled away instantly and I laughed the laughter of a lunatic all the way to school. I had somehow stopped taking myself seriously and on that fateful day, the nasty instructor was just another human with bad taste. She lost her power over me and I regained my sense of humor.
After a long summer, I saw him back in his corner for the first time today. He looked crisp in his new haircut. Today he said, “thank you beautiful! God bless you!” and put a smile on my face. I don’t even know his name!!! Over the years my judgment has dropped off of me, I have set down that heavy sack and now I walk more leisurely!
I once was alone in the city, now I have many friends. Some of them know that hearing a blessing reassures my heart and they bless me everyday
Originally published at vandananittoor.blogspot.com on November 26, 2014.