Going down to the crossroads
Encountering the homeless, wanting to help
This past Saturday morning I encountered four homeless men in a matter of moments. The first slept like a tossed baggie of water on the stoop near the entrance to my building. A few minutes later I walked past the same stoop and was greeted by two other homeless men. I nodded in greeting to the men and kept going. A few steps later another homeless man was urinating in the alley near the stoop. I diverted my eyes as he waved in greeting. I was not sure of the etiquette on this one, but I was pretty sure Ann Landers would know the answer.
Later that night I attended the Blues and BBQ event in town. I was volunteering for an extended period of time and was able to observe a good deal of human behavior from my vantage point. This particular night I observed two more homeless men. One man’s clothing was dirty and badly wrinkled. His front teeth were missing. He walked hunched like he was in pain. He sat with another retired man I knew from the community. The retired man was kind to the homeless man. He brought him food and water. They spoke throughout the day. At one point another woman I met earlier in the day walked over to the man and gave him a kiss on the forehead like he was her child. Her affection for him ran deep. I thanked the universe for sharing this compassionate sighting with me. Everyone should have friends to share their kindnesses with the way these two cared for this beautiful seemingly broken man.
As the crowd thinned and the “haves” moved on with their lives, the “have nots” became more visible. A man I’ve named Mr. Bojangles stood out now. He too was a homeless man I’ve seen many times dancing like Gene Kelly outside the bar where blues music plays on Monday nights. He generally wears a khaki-colored London Fog raincoat, tied tight around his pencil-thin waste. He was flexible like a Gumby doll. His moved like a trained professional dancer. I wondered what Robert Johnson crossroads he encountered to land this gig in the crowd. His enthusiasm lit brighter than the sun after the eclipse. I always wanted to join him on the dance floor and feel his positive spirit. No matter how many Brene Brown videos I watched on YouTube, I was too locked into social status to join him.
At some point during his performance that night, Eric Gales looked out into the diversity of the crowd. He boldly said into the microphone, “We the people of all races, socioeconomic backgrounds and ages are brought together tonight by the blues. Don’t let anyone tell you we all can’t get along, because this crowd is doing it right here, right now.” I looked around to notice that Gales was absolutely right. I felt grateful that he shared that observation.
Over the next few days, I thought about the lessons one encounters over their lifetime. I thought about how Everyman enters the light through a very small portal into the universe to share their gifts with their fellow travelers when they are ready to receive them. Over those few days, the universe enlightened my consciousness and mirrored my illusionary “kind woman” limitations back to me. In reality, fear and social construct dictated my behavior more than I cared to admit. So often I imagined the “World as One,” from a safe distance. Maybe I am still holding the Jackson Browne sand. I am hoping that bearing witness to this series of fortunate events opened me to do more than just dream about helping my fellow man.
Kathryn Dauksza is an administrator at the Illinois State Library and an observant citizen who cares about her community.