Tag Archives: homeless

To do list

My life changed after using the last Q-tip Monday night. Sincerely. I planned to pick up a new box on Tuesday once I finished at the library. The pharmacy was right next door but I managed to forget. On Wednesday, I didn’t think about the Q-tips until I climbed out of the shower that night. Frustrated I muttered, “Oh God! …Let me remember cotton swabs next time I’m out?!” I put on my pajamas and wrote ‘Qtips’ on our refrigerator shopping list.

Thursday was my birthday, so my focus was certainly not on Q-tips or any other kind of cotton swab. I readied for work, caught the train to Boston and bought munchkins for our office. Nobody knew it was my birthday and the morning went by slowly. At noon, I decided to stretch my legs, get some fresh air and take a walk.

The tourists were on the Freedom Trail and the office workers were sitting down to cafe lunches or walking back to buildings with their to-go sacks. I walked with a fast stride, smelled the aromas and listened to the sounds of the city. I watched all the people but saw the homeless. How hard is it for them to watch the feeding frenzy?

—————————–

The rest of the story that follows is not an event I would typically discuss; moments that happen in my Christian life are between myself and God. However, I feel obligated to spread these special words because I think God works in mysterious and beautiful ways.

——————————

I passed many storefronts at a quick pace.

Until I didn’t.

My stride slowed and uncontrollably stopped. I was suddenly standing in front of a very crippled man in his wheelchair. The sensation didn’t scare me and I was not afraid to be with this helpless person. I wanted to assist but didn’t know how. I do know not to give money in the streets. There is a shrine, a soup kitchen and a shelter nearby.

I found myself saying words i hadn’t even formed in my mind yet:

“What can I help you with today?”, as I bent over his chair.

His response was slow, labored and garbled. I didn’t understand anything that he was straining so hard to express.

My soul bled for him as I looked to his hands for some aided expression.

They were twisted and fist-like with long, dirty nails.

They grabbed my heart.

“I am sorry, tell me again.”, now I had to know.

He tried once more, working hard to form lips and sound.

I turned my ear toward him and thought I heard words.

Trying to match a food with what I thought I heard, I questioned, “Chips?! You want potato chips?” I turned back to face him, hoping to see acknowledgement in his eyes.

They were covered with black sunglasses; it was a beautiful sunny day.

Don’t let me give up, I thought. This is my fellow human being. He turned his head, left and right and then directly at me.

A definite but pleading “No.” registered in his mouth and my ears.

I had his lunch request all wrong, didn’t know what else to do, and then, at that very defeated moment, I heard his continued mumble as clear as a foggy day.

He spoke more slowly. “No, Q-tips.” and low but distinct, “I need Q-tips.”

I froze. In elation. For so many reasons.

“Of course. You know what?”, I was so happy and continued, “I need Q-tips too. I’ll buy some for both of us.”

It was as easy as the nearby CVS and the cosmetics aisle. I was overjoyed that I’d waited to understand. Coming together may have been God’s plan all along? My spiritual life changed because remembering new Q-tips helped me not to hear, but to see, in a whole new way.

Happy Birthday to me.

A Stella(r) Day 

Day 11 – A.M. (2)

In  one of my prior entries,  I explained why the start of my commuter routine was not exactly routine. The rest of my morning travel supported that conclusion. I was so busy expressing myself in writing that I forgot I was on the Express. I wasn’t listening for my stop. When I noticed how many people were lined up next to my seat, to file off the train, I realized we were already at Porter Square.

I jumped up, and with the fire lit under my ass, ran down all 150 steps into the subway. I caught my breathe only to have it taken away by the musician of the day.

(So much happens in the city that I haven’t even written about what I will term “The Porter Square Players”.  Monday was a guitarist playing A Bridge Over Troubled Waters”. I remember because I wondered how far I was below sea level at this deep subway station. Yesterday there was a saxophonist but the subway car was already in the station, so we jumped right on without appreciating all his Jazz.)

Today we had to wait three minutes for the next train. Or, should I say,  I had to get to work instead of staying for the fabulous violin concert. Commuters are in their own world and usually just face the tracks with their back toward the street players. This tiny young Asian woman, in her short shift dress and 4 inch white go-go platform shoes (so appropriate for the setting), was putting on a show. I didn’t care where I was, she had my full attention. I faced her with my back to the subway rails. She was hooked to an amp playing I’m not even sure what. It was a fast up-tempo classical rock that I’ve never heard. Slowly, others turned around too and I started to wonder if I was amongst a flash mob. She performed on the platform like it was her stage. She felt the music. So did we. Change and bills went into her case in the minute that followed. She ended her repertoire with the trains arrival.  Applause, smiles and review chatter went into tunnel. Something you don’t always see and hear but Boston does support their own.

———————–

At Providence Street, I was happier than ever to give my granola bar to Scott.

Yesterday I’d asked his name.

Homeless people shouldn’t remain nameless too.

His dirty toothless smile made me smile too.


 

My morning was looking up after the backpack trouble I had boarding the train.


 

Day 11 –  P.M.

My breath was taken away on the commute home too. When I arrived in Porter Square, just before the hour, there was no time to lose. I was on the verge of missing the commuter train. Passing the elevator and escalator, I ran the 150 steps to get to ground level and listen for the train. It’s arrival was hard to hear over my heavy breathing but I did make it. I just needed to catch my breath.

What are you running towards today?

Fellow travelers 

Day 7 –

Every day I observe the vastness of Cambridge and Boston. The volume of stairs at Porter Square, the diversity of race, age, profession and status on the subway and outside of the underground, the homeless landscape. Each one of these humbled me today.

My train commute included reading and not quite finishing my breakfast. As I left the subway, I felt the uneaten protein bar in my coat pocket. I pulled it out, turned the corner toward work and acknowledged a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk. He had “anything you can do” written on a trash can lid. I gave my wrapped food to him and we told each other to have a good day. 

After work, I headed back to Porter Square and another person stole my heart. I was reading the subway map, knowing I’d unconsciously memorize it over time, and noticed the elderly man across from me. He was was blind. He too had to navigate this system but with his other senses. Well, hopefully not taste. I notice the distinctive smells in the city but sound and touch must be critical to this man’s day.

The thought made me appreciate my own physical abilities and the underground infrastructure. So much so that I decided to take the stairs to the commuter rail.

<<I’m not a fan of the escalators because as they move (I don’t twitch a muscle because it seems I’ll lose my balance the higher they climb) I grow a white-knuckled death grip.  The top of any escalator is like the ledge of a mountain to me. I typically run off and don’t look back.>>

It was a quick decision to take the stairs.  I stepped out of the mob that was herding me from behind toward the escalator. I started my stair climb with pride – which is not necessarily a good characteristic. After the first flight (I think there were 8),  I started to count. My lungs told me it was approximately 120 stairs but I was light-headed by the time I ran from the top landing. I thought I’d made it but still had to climb to the train platform. More stairs. I counted every son-of-a-bitch additional one. There were 30.

It’s not rocket science or Braille but 30 plus 120 is 150. I  didn’t  have any more stamina to join a gym or get worked up over dinner. I did, however, still have the energy and appetite for words.

Who is part of your grand new tomorrow?

My brothers and sisters

  31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Matthew 25:31-40

The term is ‘needy’ because we ‘need’ to care for one another.