two days in a row

for two consecutive days now i've been downtown, which is the depressing record that i hold for the summer. not having a car has been rough on my psyche to say the least. today i did all the things that i have loved best about being out here... took a walk, made some brunch - i eat two meals a day out here, 11am and about 8pm - put in a few hours of work, went to church with gary, met some homeless guys, encouraged them, went for a walk around boston commons, had dinner at Faneuil Hall, walked and talked some more, talked to another homeless guy gary and i met a few weeks ago, drove home, worked, wrote some poetry, went to bed.

it was a long, full day. one of the coolest things that i've seen growing in myself is this readiness to talk to strangers that's always been there but never really developed. every week when gary and i go to church, one or both of us sees a person and just feels a stirring to speak to them. it usually ends up in an hour or so of dialogue, and these people at least once shake their head and say "why am i telling you this? you don't need to hear it. why am i telling you these stories and secrets? don't tell anyone. i don't tell people, usually." i mean, i definitely try to talk to strangers - but it's usually in other countries, so the conversations are not what i would call deep. they are more what i would call needlessly complicated due to a lack of common language. but talking to strangers in english, in America... it's just not common practice.

we met four people this afternoon: cheryl, paul, jack, and patrick. cheryl and jack have been married for over twenty years. jack told us secrets that i won't ever share, but were close to his heart and were about his wife. special things he knows he needs to protect in her. cheryl was asleep in a wheelchair the whole time we talked with the men - she has pneumonia and won't go to a hospital because it means being separated from jack. jack said he loves her so much that he would jump off a building for a million dollars just so he could give it to her and make her go to the hospital. patrick had a brain aneurysm ten years ago, when he was 33. he looks like he's 25 years old. he has a maniacal laugh that has a tenderness to it, like you feel safe even though he sounds like he's about to scream. he refuses to use profanity, and gently teases everyone else. he has a degree in engineering, but the aneurysm took away his mathematical abilities. it would be like if i went blind. i don't know how to do anything other than work visually. the idea of losing that is enough to paralyze me with fear. paul has lost his legs, but gary convinced him to use the elevator and accompany us to church. paul is skinny but has extremely bright eyes and seriously excellent manners, lots of please and thank you and may i. they had wonderful sense of dignity while talking with us, and shared a sense of camaraderie among themselves.

i said to gary today that i think the Holy Spirit works in our presence as much as in our words. it works in showing that you want to be there, that you want to listen and that you're not judging or disgusted or only there to throw down a few bucks and move along. people, and i think this is inherent in all people, seem to me to largely know right from wrong, know what's good for them, and sometimes all people need to feel satisfied is to feel heard. the people gary and i meet don't need or want my help in solving their problems. but i sense that it feels mighty nice to just have someone listen with a clean heart. and that's something i've found to be true with homeless people, with campers when i'm a camp counselor, or with people living in this house with me that have things to deal with from back home. love can be so simple.

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