Traveling Difficult Paths
I was driving the other day and noticed a young man sitting on a busy corner of a business amid the activity hub of people going home for the workday. The man looked to be about the age of my son who just graduated from college. He sat with a backpack and little else, his eyes were shaded with sunglasses. Upon closer examination, I could tell he was adrift, cast out into the life of the streets.
We see them every day, all ages of people from all places, some in altered states, ragged clothes walking the streets, cycling, or living out of vehicles. All these people seemingly headed into the abyss of desperation.
The statistics tell us that a variety of conditions lead to homelessness. This includes mental illness, chemical dependencies, lack of familial support, and the incredible elephant in the room — poverty.
There was also an older man who once roamed by neighborhood. He wore full-on cowboy gear including a big hat and boots. He rode a bicycle instead of a horse and in the middle of August, he also wore an overcoat. His skin, bleached by the sun, turned into a form of yellow-beige leather. The cowboy cyclist wheeled down the streets of my town for a few years, at times riding his bike off the sidewalk and blocking the right lane of the street while casually disregarding the horns of infuriated drivers.
The cowboy cyclist disappeared a short while after biting a cop who came to patrol the abandoned house he camped out in. Soon after that, he disappeared altogether. I haven’t seen him since.
It’s a hard thing to be cast out into the world with no shelter, no cohesive place, and a lack of food and necessities. All seems more poignant during this time of war when thousands of people have lost not only their homes but also their entire cities in a thunder of shrapnel and bombs. One’s total existence now wiped clean.
My Uncle Nolan used to have an analysis of the various takes on life and logic. He would often comment about people who landed on the adverse side of life with perhaps a too simplistic analogy. Uncle Nolan liked to say that the person zigged instead of zagged on the Zig-Zag continuum of life. Maybe for some, it’s true, the product of ignoring lessons, but for others, it might have been much simpler such as the bad luck of having lost a job.
“The ache for home lives in all of us, that safe place we can go….” — Maya Angelou. But for some, that place does not exist. Compassion and generosity go a long way in assisting and understanding this widespread problem.
Hand Christopher the sky
the cerulean folds of it
to blanket the sorrow in his heart
Hand him the four winds
to lighten the weight of his steps
and air so clean and pure
that tears can’t hide there
Hand him the shelter of
massive redwood trees
to lean into the wisdom
found there in forest canopies
Hand him the love
once lost on a journey
that he didn’t quite understand
Such is this….
in the magic of hands