Archive for May, 2013|Monthly archive page

Present and Accounted For

In Uncategorized on May 12, 2013 at 9:42 pm

I had a meeting downtown one evening last week. After it ended around 7:45pm, I started to walk toward my car. On the walkway there was a homeless man lying down. His boots were off and neatly placed next to the pieces of cardboard he had laid for a bed. His shopping cart was parked by his side. As I approached he glanced up and you could see his eyes spark with recognition. He had that same look I see on my students’ faces when they see me in the grocery store or at Target. Really, you exist outside of the school??!?

He hurriedly scrambled to get up, his socks slipping on the cardboard. “Wait!”, he called.

I stopped, giving him time to get to his feet. I recognized him as well but could not recall his name. I leaned forward and gave him a quick hug. As I pulled away he grasped my forearm—not hard but as if he did not want to break that human contact. He asked how I was and how my family was doing. He hastened to explain that he was not sleeping there but merely waiting to see someone about a job. He went on to tell me that he was a car mechanic by trade, transmissions being his specialty. Still holding my forearm, he drew me over to his shopping cart saying that he wanted to show me something. He carefully unzipped a battered old suitcase to reveal an equally battered red toolbox. Proudly, he opened it up and showed me the tools of his trade.

It had been a long day, work and then the meeting and drive downtown. I was anxious to get home and finish what I needed to do before I got ready for the next day. I started to say my goodbyes and move away. A friend who had been at the meeting with me walked towards us. The man told her she had a beautiful smile. We laughed and started to walk on. He called to us and said, “You know, Miss Katie has three different smiles.” I stopped, intrigued. “She has that I love you smile and that I’m glad to see you smile and then she has that You better straighten up and do right or get out smile.”

I could not stop laughing! He had pegged me to a tee! I looked him in the eye and thanked him. I gave him another quick hug and went on my way. On the ride home I thought about how observant he was, how much he had paid attention to the nuances of my mood as he watched me at the Shelter. I thought about his hand on my forearm, anchoring me in place and time so that I would pay attention to what he was really telling me. Showing me his tools was his way of offering proof that he was a person of worth, a person with skills, a person who mattered. And that hand on my forearm was begging me to pay attention to his offering.

Photo Credit: Andrew McQuade