A man, probably in his mid-thirties, approached me on the deck of OPA, and confessed he was homeless as he attempted to hide his bagged beer from the passing baristas.
He saw me writing and asked if I wrote poetry. I said yes, and he proceeded to say some lovely poetic things about rain bringing new life, how Edgar Allan Poe and Dr. Seuss are his favourites, and how he would have asked me to lunch were it not for the fact that he would not be able to afford it.
We enjoyed each other’s brief company, and he kindly and sheepishly asked if he could have a little kiss, even on the cheek. I told him, as I have told a few recently, that I do not give kisses away so easily, but that I wished him well and urged him to continue to find the poetry in life.
He asked for a high five instead, and I happily gave him one.
I have found some of the sweetest, most respectful people to be the most down and out. Poverty can strip a person down so much they are left only to face their own character—something that the more privileged among us can easily avoid, with their copious amount of luxuries (and the equal amount of stressors they often bring) obscuring their very simple humanness. I have noticed that poverty can be a powerful springboard for a truly self-determined life, particularly for those who have just enough faith to be intentional, to create some kind of meaningful existence.
I ran to the bus and hopped on, continuing to read Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet”. How he urges the young poet to fully embrace solitude. I was thinking how I have learned over the years to feel comfortable smiling and laughing to myself, how some people must think me strange, and some people—I have come to suspect—think I am flirting with them when I glance up and catch their eye accidentally with a giant smile on my face. Some people appreciate it and smile back. Most are wrapped up in their own thoughts.
An old man missing his front tooth noticed my smiling and laughter.
“You’re really enjoying that book.”
“Yes, I am.”
“You’re always reading books when I see you.”
“I enjoy falling into them.”
Just as I do with people, with myself, as I do with moments of great beauty, awe, and inspiration. What a pleasant surprise when a stranger takes notice.
I wished him well and went on my way.