Q’s and A’s. Yikes!

Posted: March 13, 2007 in Acceptance, Compassion, Homelessness, Self Esteem

This past Sunday (11 March) I attended an encore showing of "Suckerfish" and "Beyond The Call" at the Palm Theatre here in San Luis Obispo.

Beyond The Call was a film about Knightsbridge International’s co-founders, Ed Artis, James Law and Walt Ratterman that tells about their selfless and tireless efforts to personally provide humanitarian and medical aid to some of the world’s most remote, inaccessible and, often times, volatile places. I was so impressed and moved by the film, that I’ve added a permanent link to their website on this site.  

Suckerfish is a documentary dealing with homelessness. And, as it just happens, I was one of the homeless individuals who had been interviewed for the film. This film, the reception gathering after it’s initial showing on March 5th and the one paragraph mention of the film by SLO New Times Arts and Entertainment Editor, Ashley Schwellenbach, were the reason I started this blog which began with something called "What I’m Feeling Now…"

Late last week, the film’s Producer, Mary Garcia-Lemus and I were talking on the phone when she mentioned that Executive Producer, Julio Mora – who didn’t attend the debut showing – would be attending the encore showing and would I please attend also. Since I sometimes don’t know when to say "no" – as you’ll soon see – I agreed.

When I arrived at the theatre, the film’s Director, José Lemus, was speaking with a woman who had seen the first showing and as I drew near, recognized me.

After of few minutes of talking with them it occurred to me that I didn’t know this lady’s name. I didn’t know if she had told me her name and I hadn’t heard, or if I did hear and had forgotten it. Not wanting to seem like a total dim wit, I let it pass for several more minutes longer, until my curiosity got the better of me and I had to ask her name. Her name was Kathy.

I’m not sure if her name is spelt with a K or a C, so I’m going to use K. If she reads this and it should have been a C, I hope she’ll let me know so that I can correct it.

As it turns out, Kathy and her husband have been involved with the SLO International Film Festival for about ten years. And as you read along, please keep in her in mind because… well, you’ll see.

Suckerfish was shown first, then Beyond The Call. After both films had been viewed, there was an impromptu Q and A session. Mr. Artis, Julio Mora, Mary Garcia-Lemus and José Lemus stood at the front of the auditorium near the stage and the questions began.

Being almost certain that I was probably the only homeless person who was attending, I had taken a seat in the last row in a seat nearest the exit. Imagine my surprise when an audience member asked a question of José and he asked me to come down front to give the response!

It’s funny how the human mind will begin racing along at high speed once the adrenaline starts to pump. It puts a person in a type of "fight or flight" syndrome. I’m sure my adrenaline was being pumped by the gallon – and so I decided to take action.

I meant to turn and bolt out the exit and get my keester out of there just as soon as my feet would take me. Unfortunately, though my mind was racing, my body was in the slow lane. Too late. And with, who knows how many pairs of eyes watching me I simply had no choice but to head down toward the stage.

Now, don’t quote me on this, but it seems to me that José was enjoying himself watching me squirm in discomfort as I walked down the aisle way. I could be wrong though. It could have been just my imagination – some type of hallucination by a panic stricken mind. After all José is a pretty nice guy. Really he is.

And, speaking of a panic stricken mind…

My memory may not be 100% perfect, but it is in relatively good shape and serves me well. But, for some reason, known only to the fates, by the time I’d reached the stage area, I’d forgotten the question! I had to ask the lady to repeat the question, which, bless her heart, she did.

My response to the question was that… well, you know what? That’s another topic for a different day.

After a few more questions by the audience, we were ushered out of the theatre, where several of the audience clustered together into smaller groups talking about the film.

Several people came up to me and asked for the web address of this site, which I was glad to give. I sure hope that they log on from time to time to see how I’m doing or what I’m thinking. Who knows, they may even post a comment or two.

As I walked from the theatre with Julio, I thanked him for allowing me the experience of the film and allowing me the chance to speak my mind regarding homelessness. We chit chatted about this and that, about little odds and ends. He offered to give me a lift over to where my tent is. I thanked him and said no, that I would just walk. The he turned and headed toward his car.

It had been an unusual week for me. The initial showing of Suckerfish on the 5th. Starting this blog on the 6th. Adding a new post each day. The encore showing of the film on Sunday. Then still having to go through the basic motions of having to exist as a homeless person all in between. I felt tired and overwhelmed. Just needed to take a breath and collect my thoughts.

A few hours later, since I had a few bucks in my pocket – a big thing for a homeless person – I walked to the nearest Subway Restaurant to get something to eat. And who should I see as I walked through the doors? Kathy, who the moment she saw me, broke into this enormous smile.

"What are you doing here?" she asked.

I told her that I was just getting something to eat. She offered to pay for my sandwich. When I said no, that I had enough money to pay for it myself, she quickly replied: "Hey. It’s Sunday. C’mon, live a little."

As my sandwich was being prepared, we talked about the films we’d seen earlier in the day. We talked about this. We talked about that. And for those few minutes that we talked, all of a sudden, I wasn’t a homeless man. I was just… a person. Another member of the community.

In the end, she did pay for my "meal deal." When we stepped out the door, we spoke again for another few minutes, and then she drove off to be with her family.

As I walked back to my tent, I thought about any number of things. But mostly, I thought of how small blessings are found in unlikely places and at unlikely times. Most importantly, they arrive when you least expect them. I’m glad they do. Those unforeseen blessings, the unlooked for acts of kindness – they’ve served to stave off despair in this man’s life. They have, time and time again, restored my faith in the humanity of, not only members of this community, but in this, our great nation.

To those of you in this community who have, at one time or another, shown me grace, mercy and compassion – Thank You from the heart of this weary soul.

*** Afterthought ***

I hope that I can add a new post each day. I know that I won’t be able to on Sundays or Mondays. The library is closed those two days. And right now I’m using their computers. I don’t have one of my own. Although that may change soon. You see, after the film I was talking to a young man named John who… well that too another topic.

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