Walking Cross-Town. With a Tin Cup.

face-of-hand-abstract

The moment, seconds really, should have degraded into an inkblot, edges fraying, burrowing to lose itself among the billions of other moments, stored for retrieval at a later date when a similar moment showed up. Aha, I remember that.

But No.

This one Rises, floats on Top, bobbing up and down, making sure it isn’t lost. Remember this, it seems to say. Don’t forget this, it needs to say.

I’m walking Cross-Town on 47th. It’s dark. It’s early, 6:23 am. And, it’s Cold – sub 35° F, with winds gusting. Feels like 26° F. Biting.

I’m wearing a trench coat, knee length, its heavy lining leaning in on my shoulders. It’s zipped to the throat.

The fur lined leather gloves keep the hands and fingers toasty. I grip my case with one, and swing the other, the motion pulling me forward, the pace quick, the blood and bones warming from the movement.

And there he was.

Alone.

Next to the China Moon Restaurant, not yet open.

He sits on a concrete sidewalk. Not anywhere near a sidewalk grate, those grates that push out warm steam from the center of the Earth in Manhattan.

He’s sitting on two beige cushions, stacked. Couch cushions pulled from a dumpster, remnants of a corporate office reno 40 floors up.

His hands grip a camouflage-colored blanket that’s wrapped around his torso. No gloves. Red hands. A blanket, oh so thin, a kerchief really. And no cardboard sign shouting: Help me! Please.

I peer into his tin cup, a few coins, matches, and a piece of crumpled scrap paper.

I look up. He’s rocking to stay warm, shivering, full body shakes, the cushions acting as a pendulum.

His eyes are closed, and do not open. My presence does not interrupt, he keeps rocking.

The elapsed time between two Humans takes seconds, and is wordless.

I turn away, and resume walking down 47th, heavy shoes now.

And, it hits me, aha: You friend, have no idea about the meaning of the Year of Mercy, or Mercy, period.

None.

Zero.

 


Inspired by: Mark K. Shriver, from This Merciful Year (NY Times, Nov 24, 2016):

But as the Year of Mercy progressed, I realized that what Pope Francis meant by mercy had almost nothing to do with what I thought it meant. I had considered mercy from an intellectual perspective and believed the pope was essentially calling me to be nicer to people. But he is calling on us to live mercy on a deeply personal basis that changes the very essence of who we are.

In his book “The Name of God Is Mercy,” he described an episode from his time as a rector in Argentina. The parish church sometimes helped out a woman whose husband had left her, and who had turned to prostitution to feed her young children.

“I remember one day — it was during the Christmas holidays — she came with her children to the College and asked for me. They called me and I went to greet her. She had come to thank me. I thought it was for the package of food from Caritas that we had sent to her. ‘Did you receive it?’ I asked. ‘Yes, yes, thank you for that, too. But I came here today to thank you because you never stopped calling me Señora.’ ”

The story forced me to think about how I treated people in need, particularly the homeless man I saw outside my office every day. I occasionally gave him money, but I didn’t stop and look him in the eye; I didn’t ask his name, let alone call him Mister.

Now I know his name is Robert. When I give him money or buy him breakfast, I ask him how he is doing. I don’t do it every time I encounter a homeless person, but I am getting better. I have enjoyed learning people’s names, exchanging a few words and a smile.

Has it changed the world? No. But it has made me more aware, perhaps even more sensitive, to others’ struggles.

Pope Francis has renewed my faith, and my faith in my church, because he sees a Catholic Church that works on the margins of society, a church that, as Francis says, is like a “field hospital” that must go into the streets and look for the “wounded.”

But — and this is very important — Francis’ message of mercy is much more than that: He challenges us all to not just provide support to the poor but to learn from them as well, to listen to them, to be with them.

And by poor, he does not mean only those who are struggling financially. He means those who have physical and psychological and spiritual problems. In other words, he means all of us. He is calling upon each of us to be truly merciful with one another, in real and meaningful ways. Not just being a bit nicer or writing checks to charity; no, he is challenging us to intimacy with one another, and with God.


Also inspired by the lyrics from the tune “Angela” by The Lumineers:

“…But you held your course to some distant war,

In the corners of your mind…”


Notes:

 

Comments

  1. Amen. Bless you for you have turned a corner. :o)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wasted opportunity. Momentum, or fear? Or both? Do the the fur-lined gloves burn your hands now. Does the trench-coat weigh you down? Next time, David, will you cast them off, along with some precious body heat? Will you risk eye contact? Will you exchange names?
    Not judging. Just exploring with you. It’s a struggle that I go through myself (although there is less risk here so fear is less of a problem). I’ve never given my gloves or coat to anyone on the street.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Your memories will become a bit less stark, a bit happier – for these are tortuous, and as we figure out stuff – -and act on it — the kindness is reciprocal.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This post brought me up by the short hairs, DK. I just returned from a Thanksgiving visit with my brother, who is a plastic surgeon and retired military. We talked a lot about the cases he saw while on active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan (many quite horrific) and the types of things he’s dealing with now, and I came away feeling ashamed of myself and determined, in the new year, to make some small difference somewhere. I won’t be saving lives as he does, or helping anyone avoid disfigurement, but I *can* make someone’s day a little brighter or a life a wee bit easier, if only for a moment. I know I can. Just have to figure out what that looks like and not be afraid to extend a hand. I find it so striking (and more than a little sad) that we have become more ‘interconnected’ as a society, and yet never more far apart. So much to contemplate in this ‘season of giving.’

    Liked by 3 people

  5. it would make me want to give him everything.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. OK. It’s finally time for you to quit your day job. You have become another Mary Oliver. Seriously, I love your original content…

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Reblogged this on Bright, shiny objects! and commented:
    Another beauty from my friend David Kanigan…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Inspired to help and be grateful for all I have. Time to give of self and find ways to make a difference for those in need.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. So powerful. In that moment — feeling guilty, angry, complicit, ashamed, fearful. Then what? What to do next?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Read this once, made a STRONG cup of coffee, read again.
    First, Thank you Susan for This Merciful Year. Enough copies were just made to go around.

    David, David, David…
    It is one of those times, again!
    My reaction to your writing?
    My reaction to the content/personal revelations?
    Both?

    Or,

    Do I just read it and walk on by?

    Like

  11. your depth of understanding helps us with our own incongruencies; your honesty makes me more honest; I now want to act and not just feel. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. It’s hard to look at the misery of others, especially such a complicated issue as homelessness. Don’t beat yourself up over it.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Love your story Mr K and Mark Shrivers words and reminded. It will always be in our ‘actions’ that change takes place in ourselves and others. We all face these choices, what we do with them will either leave us with peace or regrets. 🙏🏻

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Oh, how we are caught up in our own lives, afraid to reach out to others. I remember reading Richard Gere’s story of filming “Time Out of Mind.” On playing a homeless man in NYC: “I could see people from two blocks away” decide to avoid me. How no one recognized him because we don’t actually look at a homeless person. Perhaps you could volunteer with the MidnightRun.org. They are not a solution, but a connection. It is a way to connect with soup, clothes and conversation. An enriching experience for all and maybe see with new eyes.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I was thinking about your post when I went out earlier today. What do we do when we encounter so many homeless people? There are just so many now and it’s horrible to think there is so much suffering going on. I used to try and stop each time I saw someone and give what I could, but there are just so many now. I personally do not have the resources to give to everyone. So I feel guilty every time I pass by without giving something. There needs to be a better solution. No one should be homeless, especially children. I just don’t know what the answer is.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Carol. It’s a complicated problem, and one well beyond my base level of competence. There are shelters, but some choose not to go. Mental health is a major contributor, and facilities either can’t or won’t treat them, if treatment is possible. It is sad, and I agree, there are many more homeless today (at least visible to me) than there were 5-10 years ago.

      Liked by 2 people

  16. David? You walked right on? Really? This is not about shelters, I could tell you from many personal stories shared with me by homeless people, why many don’t go. It’s not about that, it’s about us, our ability to just… walk by? Were you afraid of him?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Makere. I made a contribution to his tin cup and walked on. Unfortunately not enough in all fronts.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ah, thank you, I missed that while I was sitting here brooding about how this plays out in Edmonton, thank you for telling me that.

        Liked by 1 person

        • It’s why I have sent some classes out into the streets in the middle of winter (in small groups of no more than 2 or 3) to learn how to do that and why it counts. they had invariably never spoken to a homeless person in their lives. Nor known how to. The story of our modernity, isn’t it?

          Liked by 1 person

    • Buy him coffee, take him to the nearest food place and pay for a meal, get him a coat, gloves, a hat.. All those things are simple and cost little. I don’t mean to beat you up, David, just to let you know that it really is easy to be human to human. And yes, it does require eye contact, and stopping. I wish I could be there to show you how. Instead I’m going to go and make that strong coffee,

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Much to think on here today…and then go out and do something. I, for so long, had been angry at my church, the Catholic Church, but have actually seen through my work as a nurse case manager for the indigent of a very wealthy county in Southern California, that Catholic Charities is front and center; they do incredible work with the poor. We can each start living with mercy all the time, not just during the holidays. Thanks for this post, David.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Have $20 in your coat pocket ready to give. Every morning. Be ready.
    Open your heart and dip that hand in your pocket.
    The first time is always the hardest.
    💛

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Ah yes. It’s isn’t a money thing, but our thinking behind our actions. Can we connect with the person and understand their plight…
    Do you know Louise Gallagher at Dare Boldly – she is an advocate for the homeless in Calgary. She sees people without the labels and helps them find solutions that work for them. It is an overwhelming problem in so many places, but there are people who make a difference.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Yes.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Self-centered people that we are, we fail to see around us, Merciless. Most of the times I walk away from everything, as I feel I really shouldn’t interfere, and that ‘ll be indeed taken care of. But, you have a struck a chord in Me. I feel the need to reach to anyone to whom I can bring a change, give a chance.
    Inspired 🙂 Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Reblogged this on Site Title and commented:
    this adds to up my inspiration for selfless service 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  23. As you so often do, you have pulled my sleep mask up and turned on the overhead lights. I can no longer say, “I don’t see”.

    The ball is now in my court. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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