27 January 2006


As I pulled into Portland this morning, the ever persistent Northwest drizzle turned into a down pour, so by the time I unhooked my trailer and got into my vehicle I was soaked. But it's Friday, and time to start my weekend. I come home, turn up the heat, put on some dry clothes, let Alex in, pour a glass of wine, turn up the heat a little more, apologize to Alex for turning up the heat, and try to relax...

Usually Friday is my "do nothing day". Content to curl up on the couch, spend all day in my pj's, catch up on the news, watch a bit of CSPAN, and maybe enjoy an independent film or two, but not today. See, yesterday was one of those days. You know, the kind that knock you a bit off your axis and make you look at the world from a slightly different point of view..

It was one of the days I volunteer. Every Monday and Thursday I kick myself out of bed a few hours early so I can transport meals to the day center. The center is one of several run by Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon and provides breakfast and lunch as well as support to people living with HIV/AIDS. It's an easy enough task. I pick up the container from the day before, drive over to where the food is prepared, and bring them back fresh supplies. Almost always, I join them for lunch and visit. They're a great group of people, eclectic to say the least.. There are people recovering from addiction, families, artists, single mothers, immigrants, gays, and a few who live in shelters, though most of them live in public housing and work when they are well enough to. Every time I go down there I am touched by one of them. Whether it's the single mother who talks with such pride about her son, the hip artist whose work is just remarkable, or the immigrant who loves to have conversations so he can work on his English, they are all beautiful people.. And then there's HIM.

I first noticed him about a month ago. He sat on the church steps, playing a battered guitar, and singing old Johnny Cash songs. He had one of those smiles that surrounds you like a bear hug you can't escape from. I knew I was going to like him immediately. Every time I see him he's in a good mood, so much so that it's contagious. Friendly to everyone, always eager to join the conversation. He is simply more alive than anyone I've met in a long time.

As I walked into the center it was hard not to notice him. He always dresses well, but yesterday he looked as if he could enter any business in town and run the place; nice dress pants, freshly ironed shirt, tie, shined shoes, and these fabulous suspenders... After a lunch of fried chicken, rice, and veggies, he and I sat talking and working a 1500 piece puzzle, the most fun I'd had in weeks. And as the day center closed for the day, I couldn't help but think to myself as he walked off, looking sharp in his suit and over coat, "No one would ever know by looking at him. No one would know that he is living on the streets."

While we tried to fit puzzle pieces together, he'd explained to me that he could live in public housing but has chosen not to. Instead, he lives in a tarp covered shelter which he insists is dry and warm. He'd gotten up early yesterday, went to his storage unit, and ironed his clothes. He says that living on the streets makes him more determined to better his situation. He's resolute on making it on his own.. He is amazing...

So later today, instead of taking a "do nothing day".. I am going to get up and go to the day center so I can put together the rest of the puzzle, laugh, talk, and be alive with HIM.... But for now, as the rain falls outside, I can't help wondering, "Is he warm? Is he dry? Is he safe?"...............

I wish it was spring.........


Blogger TLC said...

He sounds like a walking inspiration that you have the pleasure of getting to know! I do hope spring comes soon for everyone's sake!

1/27/2006 5:42 PM

Blogger hairball said...

He sounds like one of those few special souls you meet in your life. The ones that radiate and make you see a whole different world. It makes me wonder if I ever live my life where I inspire someone else in such a way.....maybe a should try harder.

1/28/2006 2:53 PM


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