Because of an illness I dealt with at the beginning of the year, I’ve been diligent about making certain that I eat as healthy as possible. But I do "cheat" sometimes and eat something that may not be the best for me but makes my tummy feel good. Today, for example, I ate a Popsicle – root beer flavored. Yum.
It’s been ages since I’ve eaten a Popsicle. – especially root beer flavored, so as I savored my treat it created a feeling of nostalgia. As I thought back over my life and all of the people I’ve known, I realized just how blessed I’ve been.
I’ve often referred to myself as "this tiny life" or "this small life" or something to that effect, not because I think of myself as being insignificant. But, in a world of over 6 billion people and who knows how many billions of other living creatures, I know that I’m just one small part of some grander scheme. Still, while I may lead a small life, I can perceive how valuable it is. That value however is as a result of the many people who are a part of my life and who have allowed me to be a part of theirs.
Let me give you a small list of the recent faces that have graced my life…
Illumination Films husband and wife team of José Lemus and Mary Garcia-Lemus have been a part of my life since just prior to the birth of this blog. They have been a constant source of encouragement. In so many ways, they became my own "personal cheering section." But more than that – they became my friends.
What makes it even more amazing is that they became my friends at a time when I was struggling to become free of homelessness. Despite that however, they never once viewed me as being "beneath" their notice. Even more importantly, they never once over compensated to make me feel less homeless. They always treated me as just another person.
Billy Foppiano, a local SLO musician who, on those occasions when I was forced to stand at the exit of a supermarket parking lot with a cardboard sign to put a few bucks in my pocket, always had a smile for me.
Unlike so many who would give a couple of dollars through their open vehicle windows as they passed, Billy always seemed to make the time to walk over to where I was standing and engage me in a conversation for 5 or 10 minutes. He would always ask if I were hungry or thirsty. If I’d say yes, he’d ask what I wanted to eat or drink.
He must have known just how foolish and embarrassed I felt standing there. Yet, he never once belittled me for it. Often times it seemed to me that he was going out of his way to make it seem as though we were just two gentlemen who happened to run into one another and were catching up on what had been happening since the last time we’d bumped into each other.
Then there are friendships that came about as a direct result of this blog…
My dear friend JT who, writes the Wandering Vets blog, when I fell ill at the beginning of the year, was ready to take an Amtrak to SLO to make sure that I was okay. Yet, he himself was just barely in the process of transitioning out of homelessness and back into the community.
I recall one time when he referred to himself as the "country mouse" and me as the "city mouse." We’d been going through so many parallel struggles with homelessness – he in a rural setting and I in an urban environment.
Now he is, with the help of others, providing "care packages" to the homeless in his area.
Then there is a friend of mine who writes a blog under the "pen name" of Sweet Potato Queen.
A genteel Southern Belle, who with her quick wit and gentle humor, is able to inspire some of the deepest belly laughs within me.
There have been times when she has me laughing so hard that my jaws and sides hurt for a while afterward. But, she is also capable of providing me with words of comfort and encouragement at times when I seem to need them most.
Is this tiny life blessed?
Additionally, there is a lesson that I’ve learned as a result of their friendship: human interaction is vital to the health of the human spirit.
There are millions of homeless all across this nation.
The majority of them feel like outcasts. They feel as though they’ve been cut off from the rest of society. Partly this is due to how society views the homeless. It’s also due to how some members of the community actually treat the homeless: with scorn and disdain.
Homeless support services organizations, such as homeless shelters or day centers for the homeless, are fine and dandy. But these agencies treat only the physical aspect of a person. They do little or nothing to heal the broken spirits of their clientele. That healing can only come through the rest of us: the community.
I once heard someone say that in order for a mare to win a race, it takes more than just four good hooves and a rider who isn’t afraid to use the whip. It takes a sound heart.
It’s good that we make donations to those agencies that provide services to our nation’s homeless. We should do that. But it’s only half of what is required.
The homeless can do without our scorn. They can do without our disdain. They can do without the glares of disgust and contempt.
What they cannot do without is our compassion.
This tiny life knows that to be true from personal experience.