Jul 10, 2017
Jeremiah is homeless. He is a slight man and slanted to the right. Some days he has a pronounced limp – arthritis in the knee. He’s lost most of his teeth. I first met Jeremiah some time ago on my way into work at my highway exit where he stands at the stoplight and holds a cardboard sign: “Homeless, hungry.” One day I rolled down my window, asked his name, and offered him a few dollars that he accepted with a two-tooth grin. He asked my name and we shook hands. He thanked me and blessed me and the light turned green.
I keep a small wad of bills on me because of Jeremiah. I want to be prepared.
As the weeks and months went on, we would greet each other and make our little exchange and I found myself saying ridiculous, meaningless things like “Take care of yourself.” One day I said, “I’ll say a prayer for you” and even though I meant it, even though I do pray for Jeremiah, I hated how condescending that sounded, how holy-roller and hypocritical as I drove away in my car that is paid for, on my way to a job with a salary and benefits, into a world a million miles from Jeremiah’s. I wanted to do better.
One day, I asked, “How are you doing?” He shook his head a bit and gestured toward what looked like an old, dirty sleeping bag among his few possessions leaning up against a utility pole. “You wanna know?” he said sharply, “That’s how I am. That’s my reality.” He turned his back, the light turned green, and I pulled away opening up the painful gap between us. I was dissatisfied and disheartened, and utterly dumbfounded by the stupid ease of my escape.