Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Where are you, Abi?

His eyes were hazed and unfocused.  Clearly, mental illness, drug addiction, or alcoholism had him in its grips. My "job" at the soup kitchen that day was to go around with pitchers and refill drinks. Each time I passed him, he waved me over.  "Come here," he said in a thick African accent, smiling broadly. Each time, he quietly said something. He wanted more spaghetti. I have pretty eyes, a nice smile. He wanted a hug. I hesitated briefly. He was none too clean. I asked his name.  Abi (aa-BEE).

Later, he got up to leave and came back to our drink station. He put his arm around me and said to someone, I don't remember who, that I was now his sister. He walked out into the world where he lived, on the streets. I think of him often: how he came here, why he was on the streets, did he have family? Of all the people I encountered that day, his openness, his insistence on interacting with me burned him in my memory.

One other client struck me hard. A young girl sat quietly eating her lunch.  At her side, was a stroller holding, I'm guessing, her three month old brother. Her five year old sister sat across from her, her backpack still strapped on. Where were their parents? Who leave a three month old with a girl looking to be no more than eleven years old? Who sends children to eat a soup kitchen filled with (mostly) homeless men? I wanted to take them home. What happens to that baby when the two older ones started school this fall?

As I poured, I made sure to look directly at the lunch goers and smile. All were polite, thankful, grateful for a smile and direct look.

"Where'd you get that swab?" I was asked.  What? What is a swab? Familiar with swag but not swab. He touched his head, "Swab. Cap." I was wearing a white ball cap that was a Junior PGA Golf hat, taken from William. I'd have given it to him but I had to keep my hair covered.

One man went around asking all the workers for a rag. He wanted only some clean, dry cloth to clean himself. Imagine: no wash cloth to wipe your face. Something so very basic we take for granted. Just those couple of hours really have dug at me. At night, I look up at the stars and the night sky. Winter is coming. Where will they all go? How will they stay warm? Yes, I know the woman with the scarred face doesn't really have allergies (as she told the kids) but is a meth user. Yes, I know a good number made bad choices and that some, like in the general public, aren't good people. Nowhere have I read that we are called to serve the "worthy" only. Mostly, I saw people that wanted someone to really see them and smile.

My "brother" is out there somewhere. He needs a blanket for the winter. William and I are going to try to collect enough blankets to give each person served there, up to 500 people, a blanket for Christmas. It should be a good Christmas!

1 comment:

Baker Family said...

What a kind idea to collect blankets for Christmas. You and William are an inspiration.

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