Saturday, March 19, 2016

Learning to Live With Little - or Without

The subway system was messed up again. What else was new. I had just left work for the day only to find that there were no B or C trains going to 59th Street. I figured I would walk a block west to Broadway to get the 2 or the 3 as an alternative. As I was on my way I decided that I would head south along Columbus Avenue toward 59th Street to get the D instead. I thought I could use the walk; it would help to clear my head. It was just around twilight and the air was cool, not too chilly but bearable. As I approached Best Buy, I noticed Keith sitting in his accustomed place just outside the doorway to the store. My spirit perked up instantly; I had not seen him in a while. Immediately, I stooped down beside him. Keith, as you may recall, is homeless. He was sitting hunched over and wearing a black coat, with a black garbage bag providing covering for his legs. His medium sized backpack lay beside him. We greeted each other and proceeded to inquire about each other's welfare.

Keith told me that since I last saw him he had developed a hernia which was causing him a lot of pain and discomfort. He had also just turned 56. I told him he looked younger than his age. He was very pleased to hear that; he looks like he is around forty. What was striking about this meeting was how thankful Keith was for life. He told me he was thankful to God for each new day and for each breath of air he is allowed to breathe. As he was expressing his thankfulness, for a fleeting moment my rational mind was observing the apparent contradiction, the apparent discordance between that which he was saying and his actual circumstance as my eyes were seeing it. And then it struck me. Keith can be thankful because he is able to do that which most of us are unable to do. He has learned to live with little and has learned to live with nothing. As I said goodbye to him that evening, I told him of the other apparent incongruence. I told him that he was the source of blessing to me in our encounter and not I to him because of the measly five dollars I had given him. He would have none of it; he told me that I was the source of blessing to him.

[photo art by Ric Couchman]