Saturday, July 25, 2009

Lifted by the homeless

A couple weeks ago while working at my office downtown (the US Bancorp Center on Nicollet Mall between 8th and 9th street) I took a break and wandered Nicollet Mall. It was a gorgeous Monday afternoon -- sunny and springlike. The air was filled with the hypnotic sounds of the saxophone being played by a homeless man standing on Nicollet Mall at the corner of 9th and 10th street. What is it about the homeless that both tears and my heart, but lifts my spirit so high -- is it that a homeless man, despite his circumstances, can hold a musical instrument so I don't even see the saxophone ... I just hear the piercing, penetrating notes that reach deep into my soul and lift me up to a place where there is no division, where there is no homelessness, where there is no suffering.

As i walk back to my office, I meet Nick. He has a cardboard sign that reads "Penny for a Poem". Next to him is his shepherd mix puppy, Sam. I ask Nick if I can pet his dog. "yes, he's very friendly -- he's just eating." "Where did you get Sam from?" I ask. Nick, with a big smile on his face, says "he was a gift." So often I have walked by homeless people. Sometimes I stop and drop coins or dollar bills. Compassion with detachment. That afternoon I wanted to connect with them. I stopped to talk to him, ask him his name, his dog's name. I hand Nick $25 ... it's all I have with me. In return, I get so much more back. He has a pile of small white papers in a tupperware container ... papers filled with black ink and words from his heart transformed into poems. Here is one of his poems:

"Beauty and Art
are things one can say when gazed at lovingly
in an open way
not too much here
not too much there
not too little
just how friends care
excitement and passion
what a clear mind wants
the day to day responsibility
the need we're taught to watch
Beauty and Art
the words
left unsaid
when asking the question
what's in your head
" --- Nick

I was wishing I had brought my camera to work to capture the many moments that touched my heart. Not having my camera I borrow a photo from a site that captures the bond between a homeless man and his dog.

Words and music lifted my spirit one Monday afternoon. As I walk back to my office on the 28th floor of the US Bancorp Center building, I carry with me the gift of grace given to me by two homeless men and a homeless shepherd.

1 comment:

  1. So often when walking downtown, I have seen the homeless. Sometimes I hear them playing an instrument--mostly guitars, but a few trumpets (though I have never seen the saxophone!). When I first moved to the cities, I tried to avoid them. After a while, I came to realize that most of them are folks just like me, who have come upon some unfortunate cirucumstances. Many people choose to look the other way, pretending they don't see these people. I don't know what to do about this--it seems I am more adept at helping homeless animals than I am homeless people--but it saddens me.

    What a great experience you had.