“There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more. He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness. We must have felt what it is to die, Morrel, that we may appreciate the enjoyments of life.
” Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and never forget, that until the day God will deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words, ‘Wait and Hope.” ― Alexandre Dumas
A couple of days ago I was walking through Grand Central and a man on a wheelchair looked familiar. He reminded me of Milton. Please see here for a post about Milton– https://blessedwithastarontheforehead.com/2013/07/16/milton-my-new-friend/
He had his back to me as I passed. I went by him and then turned around and went back. It could have been Milton. I had to make sure. I approached him and said: Milton? He said: no. I asked what was his name and he said: Cedric.
I was a bit sad it was not Milton, but then again I like thinking he is living comfortably in an apartment somewhere in NY City. I asked Cedric where he lives and he said he sleeps in a shelter. I asked him if he knew Milton. He said they never crossed paths.
I thought for a second about the fact that Cedric didn’t say he lives in a shelter. He said he sleeps in a shelter. A shelter is just a place to sleep at night. Laura (I am talking about her next) told me that on rainy days she had to go and sit in a diner because she could stay in the shelter. I cannot imagine not having a place to call home, a place to actually live at. We that do have a place to call home are so blessed. Think about that for a second.
Anytime I saw Milton I would stop and talk, and also give him a couple of dollars. More important than the money I think it was the time and attention. He was always smiling. He had told me that the city of New York was getting him an apartment but it was going to be far, not in Midtown, probably in the Bronx somewhere. Every month was the same story, NY City is working on the apartment. It is coming soon. I held on to that hope along with him.
“Love is not patronizing and charity isn’t about pity, it is about love. Charity and love are the same — with charity you give love, so don’t just give money but reach out your hand instead.” – Mother Teresa
Then after months of not seeing him on the same corner on 40th Street and Madison Avenue, I saw him in Grand Central Station looking worse for wear. He seemed beaten, weathered down, deflated, but still he had a smile for me. We didn’t talk much. He was not himself. It saddened me. I never saw him again.
He comes to mind often. When that happens I say a prayer that he is well.
“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.” – John Holmes
After Milton I met Laura. She sat in front of Starbucks. In the beginning she seemed so out of place. She was clean, well fed, and slowly I saw her become a shell of herself. She still had a smile on her face and a plan for the future if only she could get to California. If she got there she would have a home and she would go to school. That is easy I thought to myself: I can buy her the ticket. Then she added that she couldn’t go yet because she had had lost all her documents. There were people helping her with that.
One day she said that she and others ladies in her same situation had been abused by this one guy and there were new lawyers helping her with that case. Every week was a story and I became discouraged. I started to doubt the she would ever leave the streets. Her stories seemed to be more for my benefit, to show me that there was a plan and it was in motion.
I would tell her a bit about myself and about my sister moving here. She never forgot the things I had told her. She would ask about my sister, etc. And then one day I stopped seeing her. Same as in with Milton, I hope that not seeing her again is a good thing. I hope that things worked out well for her. She is only 27 or 28 years old.
“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” – John Bunyan
Now, there is Matthew. He sits on the corner of 34th Street and Madison Avenue. He has become a friend. He always insists on holding my hand to say thank you. He greets me with the hugest of smiles. He said that he was going to be on the corner until June. His father is getting married and he will go to live at his father’s house.
The other day my co-worker was going out to run some errands at lunchtime. I asked her to get Matthew some empanadas from the Cuban restaurant. He gets very excited about them. When she returned she said he had a different sign. He didn’t have the usual one asking for help. He had one thanking everyone that has helped him. I thought to myself: Awesome, he is saying good bye. It is June, he will be gone. I stopped seeing him. I was so happy he was gone. I pictured him in a house in the country doing work in the backyard.
Then today there is Matthew back on the corner again. He said that he went and saw his father, all is great, but now he has to work out the logistics. I don’t know what that means.
“We only have what we give.” – Isabel Allende
I talk, I ask questions but not too many. I don’t want interfere or try to fix their lives. The problem is a complex one. Unless I am willing to adopt them and take them into my care, I can’t really meddle. I can’t fix their lives. Only they can do that if given the chance.
And that is what I pray for. I pray that they get a chance, a direction, opportunities and possibilities. I pray for all the Miltons, all the Lauras, all the Matthews, and all others. May they find the strength, may they find a way. Homelessness shouldn’t mean hopelessness.
It scares me to think that some people are just a paycheck away from ending up in a corner.
Don’t just learn, experience.
Don’t just read, absorb.
Don’t just change, transform.
Don’t just relate, advocate.
Don’t just promise, prove.
Don’t just criticize, encourage.
Don’t just think, ponder.
Don’t just take, give.
Don’t just see, feel.
Don’t just dream, do.
Don’t just hear, listen.
Don’t just talk, act.
Don’t just tell, show.
Don’t just exist, live.” – Roy T. Bennett