The sound of vehicles honking their horns at jaywalkers jolts me from my sleep. The smell of exhaust already suffocates me, barely letting me catch my first breath of the morning. It’s another frigid day in December, and I don’t have a coat or socks, or even shoes without holes. The sky is dark, letting me know that it will probably rain at any moment. But today is the same as every other, and no matter how many warnings the clouds signal, I have no place to go to escape their downpour. I might alternate between busy streets today, hoping that a good person or two might actually care to stop. I wish they understood: It’s not always money I need. Somedays, like today, I just want to feel less invisible…
If today proves to be yet another unsuccessful day on the streets, I might have to find refuge in a homeless shelter. Many people might judge me for being too stubborn to accept help, but I wish they understood: my dignity is the only thing I can still call my own. But in the end, if I refuse food for too long, I would ultimately be relinquishing that too.
People point jeering fingers in my direction, thinking that I might not notice, or even oblivious to the fact that my feelings, although trampled and worn over time, are still capable of being hurt. If it was in my power to get a job, I would. Don’t they know I am ashamed of my situation? This life is all I’ve ever known, yet I continue to be amazed by the embarrassment that each day can bring. The air around me is cold, but every mumbled insult brings a rush of blood through my veins as my increasingly scarlet cheeks warm me, exposing my humiliation. I plot my daily movements and strategies continually on how best to steer clear of violence, but both verbal and physical are often inevitable. I wish they understood: I am not homeless by choice.
Today was not the best day. But neither can I complain. I hold on to the hope that the next days could hold something special in store for me. I acknowledge that fate could have been much less generous to me today, as I ponder the hot cup of coffee I was able to acquire thanks to my daily “earnings” of $3.74. I wish they understood: the color of the cup bears little importance to people like me. Most people think little of their two or three times a day coffee runs. Being able to stroll into any given shop with a guarantee of coming out drink-in-hand is not a luxury that can be afforded to all.
The winter evenings come swiftly, reminding me that it’s time to find my resting place for the night. I am jealous of the sun descending into its habitual abyss, eager to rest before the next day’s routine. As I watch the city around me slowly slip into slumber, I can finally begin to talk with my Companion. My Friend is usually very busy, which is why I wait until nightfall to get His undivided attention. I figure that if no one else is awake to talk to Him, I have a better chance of being heard. I begin by thanking Him for the $3.74 that I was given today. I ask Him to bless the families of those that took a minute to speak with me while they waited at the bus stop. I even send up a little request for the people that simply looked me in the eye today, a soundless display of compassion exchanged in the process.
Most of all, I prepare to wish my friend a happy birthday because Christmas is coming around the corner.
The city around Christmastime is always a hub of bright colors and busy people. As the buildings around me light up with the unconventional holiday colors of red, white, and blue, I am reminded of the hope in solidarity, and I pray also for an end to terrorism. The arctic temperatures somehow evoke the warmth from people’s hearts, but I do not question or bring attention to this seasonal phenomena. All misery seems to fade away, and for a few short weeks, one can truly glimpse the biblical message made manifest; peace on earth and goodwill to men.