There is a man who stands
Hunched over his walker outside the Starbucks at 56th and 6th
He jingles coins in a paper cup and greets all,
Complimenting a selection of ladies on how nice they look
Today, I saw him bent at a right angle
Struggling to push his walker over the hose
That is used to wash the sidewalks
Until he finally got it over and shuffled toward the street
Midtown is hustling even in the
Early hours of the morning and most
Have tuned out
The clinking of metal and the blessings of a
For the first time, the man with the walker was not allowed to
Stay in my peripherals,
Because as I was walking out of Starbucks
He was climbing the mountain
That was the hose and
I noticed his beard was gray and my heart
Snapped in two like a pencil does
When you put your thumbs in the middle and
Pull at the ends
In that moment, my complaints
Shrunk to microscopic pieces of dust and
I felt a deep love for this
Man in my path
Who so clearly had struggles, some of which my
Vivid imagination could not conceive.
Filled with somber gratitude for
My life and my problems, I felt grateful for the
Man with the walker who reminded me
To give thanks
*I wrote this poem about a week ago, and this morning I had a chance to introduce myself to the man with the walker. I did get his name, but for the sake of anonymity, I will call him "R".
Just as one would expect, R is talkative and friendly. Out of my short conversation with him, I found out that we share the same birthday, which was yesterday. My belated birthday greeting was returned with a toothless smile and a "God Bless".
R's kindness - and the reminder that he provided - brought 1 Corinthians 1:27-30 to mind:
"27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption."
While exact numbers are difficult to ascertain, there are approximately 116,000 individuals affected by homelessness in New York City. Out of these numbers - it's true - some have chosen this as a lifestyle; while others have fallen on hard times. Whatever the case, I have been reminded (and I encourage you to think on this as well) that the people that we pass on the street are people. They have stories and they were born to a mother and a father.
Brennan Manning - a homeless alcoholic turned renowned Christian author - put it this way:
"My trust in God flows out of the experience of his loving me, day in and day out, whether the day is stormy or fair, whether I'm sick or in good health, whether I'm in a state of grace or disgrace. He comes to me where I live and loves me as I am."
And with that jaw-dropping truth, I say, Happy Birthday R! You are a blessing - may you be blessed, and know the great love that Jesus has for you.