when i passed the mother with her young child in a stroller, i wept. my heart went out to her as she passed me on the sidewalk and i glanced at the young child. my eyes went back to the mother who looked at me and half smiled, hiding the pain, the anxiety and the weariness that only a mother could know as she tries to keep her child at her side. i thought of where she slept last nite and the fear that must have crept around her as the darkness sank in and she was alone in the abandoned building that i know she sleeps in. i thought of the relief that the early sunrise must have brought her, only to be quickly replaced by the burden that the same sunrise brings.
i passed the elderly gentleman with mental illness wandering down market street. as i passed he paused and began to speak as he always does when i see him. his greeting was familiar but his conversation after that was sprinkled with reality and the bizarre ramblings of dementia and paranoia that fills his world. i looked more intently at him this morning as i listened to him speak in the world that he is trapped inside. when i began to move on and glanced back i thought of him and the many times i've seen him wandering the streets of my city going to a destination that only he is aware of. in the rain, the snow, the darkness and the heat of the summer he shuffles down the same streets every day, content in the world that only he knows. as i looked ahead again, i wept because i know he will not make it thru another winter on the streets.
i passed the single young woman whom i see often in my travels among the homeless. when i first saw her she was pretty, young and physically fit. this morning she was a shell of herself and her eyes seemed to be dimming with each meeting. her once physically fit body was now thin, worn and bore the marks that heroin addicts wear. she was weathered and street hard. when i thought of the moment that the needle will enter her arm and as surely as i was standing before her today, it will take her life...i wept.
i learned of a young woman's death this morning that i haven't seen in awhile. i inquired about her to her once boyfriend who had just relapsed and was beginning again to attempt to kick the drugs that have had a reign over him since the first day i met him. his response that she died 7 months ago hit me particularly hard this morning when he told me she overdosed. i wept as i thought of the last time i saw her, drug free, eyes clear and a bright smile. i wept for a life cut short in what should have been her prime.
every time i passed a homeless person today and saw the backpack on their back or duffel bag at their side i wept for them. i wept because i know the struggle, the weariness and the anxiety that comes with that backpack and worn sneakers. i know the look on their face and the feelings inside them despite the smile on their face. i wept for them because i know the inner sadness and feeling of being alone that eventually comes to them whether it be late at nite, early in the morning or all during the day. i wept for them because i know that the chances of ending their homelessness soon is small and that their struggle is ongoing. i know the heavy burden they bear. i wept as i passed the ones that were drunk, high or somewhere in between. i know they carry a death sentence with them and every time they smoke, drink or stick a needle in their arm they are quickening that sentence and shortening that green mile.
at the end of the day when i saw the homeless finally at their destination, i wept, i know that they will sleep on a bed that isn't theirs, in a building that houses sadness and desperation. i know they will sleep tonite and wake to the thought that soon another day of walking the streets of my city will begin. another day of surviving and living with the thought that tomorrow will bring another day...just like today.
i wept for my city today as i wondered how it could allow this day after day after day and year after year. i cried as i wondered how my city could allow men, women and children to be homeless, alone and often hungry and fearful for their own survival. i wept when i thought of you allowing this to begin, grow and continue in your community being fully aware that the homeless are among you.
i wept for all of you today, but you did not know it. i shed not one tear down my cheek and i did not wipe my eyes as the pain of your homelessness sifted thru me. as you keep your pain inside of you, so i kept the tears inside of me as assuredly as the woman at your place of employment keeps her homelessness inside of her. i kept it inside of me just as sure as the homeless child who shares your son or daughter's classroom keeps their secret inside. i kept my tears inside of me just as intently as the elderly woman you pass on the sidewalk as you scurry to work or lunch or on your way home keeps her fear and pain inside.
i wept for you today...all of you...in my soul. i wept for my city.
see you around town