Today is one of those days.
How thoughtlessly, how thoughtlessly, I let myself judge!
It is a beautiful day for running errands with my boys - my delightful boys, that make me look the part of a good mother because of how peaceful, kind, and obedient they are in public. (Thank you Søren, it is SO nice to know you and be your mother). One of these errands landed us at a local high end health food grocery store to locate naturally sweetened jam for a blueberry tart I am making Søren for his birthday (tomorrow!) party (Saturday). We pulled in and I prepared for the ritual of retrieving a shopping cart and bringing it back to the car to load the boys directly into it and save myself the potential hassle of wrestling a two-year-old into a cart with an infant in the other arm.
Standing next to the carts out side the door was a tired-looking, 60-something, homeless man holding a small stack of newspapers titled "RealChange" for $1. I prepared my self to be asked to purchase one, but he barely even blinked as I moved the cart out from around him. I was reminded of "StreetRoots" in Portland, a paper where homeless people contribute to writing for, producing, and selling a local street newspaper. This is a job that they get paid for (90% of whatever they sell) and helps to work them into real jobs and get permanent shelter back over their heads. I was encouraged, as this kind of homeless mission actually seems to work, and these particular "bums" are actually willing to work, not just beg. I made a mental note to exchange the $5 in my purse for $1's. But when he wandered off toward a little stand outside I was a little relieved.
As I meandered the stores isles I chatted with a nice Italian man working at the gourmet counter who helped me find some extra dry sherry (for which I was later carded! It has been a while since that happened) and noticed that the bum had now come in and was wearing a store apron and helping bag.
As God would see fit, after finding the creme fraiche, heavy cream, fruit and bulk nuts, I ended up in a long line of shoppers who were quickly divided up into 3 newly opened check-stands (the beauty of a high-end market I suppose) with none other than the old bum as my bagger. I handed him my bags with a kind smile, but found that inwardly I had elevated myself above him.
He offered to help me out to my car, which I have learned to accept as unloading bags, children, and returning carts can be a bit much as nap-time approaches. Søren was busy pushing buttons on the card reader, and was bound and determined to bring the check writing pen home with us.
After a silent tug-of-war with him to return the pen to the counter the old man said to Søren, "Sure want that pen don'tcha? Are you gonna be a writer?"
I laughed and said, "Well, he is named after one."
He naturally replied, "What's his name?"
"Ah, Søren Kierkegaard. How existential you are." Again addressing Soren.
"Yes," I said smiling - though not so elevated as before, "Most people don't know the reference."
"Well, I'm an educated bum" he told me frankly.
"That's the best kind to be," I replied for lack of knowing anything better to say.
"Shouldn't have too many Søren's in school." He added.
"We like that it's unique."
"Better than Nicky Stevens" he said while placing my bags at the floor of Elliot's car seat.
"Is that your name?"
"Oh no, I'm Andy," He said.
"That's my husband's name."
"In Greek it means 'man,'" He told me.
"And 'husband,'" I added.
"And what's your other son's name?" He asked with a nod to the sleeping Elliot.
"Elliot," I answered.
"T.S.?" He asked.
"And George" I said, "We wanted to keep with a literary theme."
He said something else kind, took my cart and wished me a nice day. I loaded myself into the car and drove homeward.
As I pulled out onto the street my eyes began the little tingling that tells me they want to water but won't. Something about his nature was so tender and deep. I entertained the idea that he might be an angel. Primarily, though, I was struck at how much unexpected tragedy life brings us, and how some people weather it with such humility and patience. My heart cleared and as I drove home I took the time to notice people.
At the stop light before my apartment complex there was familiar but unrecognized music coming from a car diagonally behind me. Inside was a clearly obese woman of my own age exposing her heart singing with the music. It made me smile, and I could see that she was aware of but not ruled by her emotions and was striving to embrace the life that had been given her.
Waiting at the crosswalk was a young mother with husband and child in tow, wearing 3-inch cork sandals, who was clearly still bucking a bit at the life that had been given her. This made me reflect on myself because on my own way out the door I had seriously considered wearing sandals with an impractical heel because I thought they would look cute, but then accepted that it did not make any sense for walking around with two small children and no husband to help.
I pulled into our parking space feeling somehow more connected to everyone, and reminded again how much we have to learn from each other and what depth lies in strangers. What a task it is to be man!