Sometimes I like to look a picture and then let my fingers run all over the keyboard. No edits – just free writing for 15 to 30 minutes without really thinking so much as letting my Spirit take charge and do its thing. Today was one of those days. This is purely fiction and does not detail anyone I know or any location I know. Enjoy! ~Shell
I was walking down the same city street I’d walked down many times, singing the same song I’d sung each time I walked it. Lost in my own world, enjoying the break from the humidity, I noticed something was out of place that day. I took in the sight, it looked the same way it had looked the day before, and the day before that, and well… really every day since I’d moved to this section of town. I started to take inventory in my mind as I shifted my bag to my other arm.
Everything checked out but something felt off today. I felt like I was seeing something that was not usually there. As it started to sprinkle, I snapped a picture remembering before cell phones when people would be sarcastic to me when I got lost in thought, “Take a picture. It will last longer.” Well, thank you sarcastic folks. Today I will.
I continued walking, unable to shake the feeling that I just saw something I wasn’t used to seeing or that they had done something new – though I don’t know who they would be since no one seems to care about that section of buildings. When I got home I took out my phone and stared intently at the picture. What was out of place?
Suddenly, I noticed what was wrong. The red and blue that I noticed each day and just looked past because I thought it was graffiti… that wasn’t graffiti. That isn’t graffiti. It is a human being. How had I not noticed this in the past? I was shocked that for months I’d been walking by and taking in the same sight day after day and never noticed there was a human being lying down in the doorway. I know it’s Summer and all but shouldn’t he have somewhere to stay? Shouldn’t someone be looking for him? Shouldn’t someone have stopped by now?
I sat and ran through the scenarios for why he would be sleeping on the doorway of an abandoned building, knowing for sure he must be a drug addict or some felon who can’t get into a shelter or home. Why else would be he be sleeping there. As my conscience started to tell me that I should return and bring him some food, I reminded myself that only bad people have to sleep on streets. If he didn’t have problems, he would have somewhere to sleep.
The next morning, I woke up with a hurt in my heart. It had rained pretty heavily the night before and I couldn’t stop myself from wondering how the young man had been for the night. He couldn’t be very old from the looks of the picture. I decided that I needed to more than assume someone else would do something. I thought of the song that was playing as I walked by the abandoned building the day before, Britt Nicole’s “Be the Change”.
“So many hearts around the world breaking. If I only got the chance, I would take it.” I needed to take this chance. I couldn’t sit in church each week and talk about how much I loved Jesus and wanted to see people healed while I walked past someone who needed help. But… I had. The realization that I had done just that for a while now really hit me hard. I’d noticed how the red and blue stripe seemed out of place the first time I’d seen it but I didn’t really think much about it. Why was yesterday different? Why did I noticed it yesterday?
I thought about the past week while I made a meal to bring to the young man on my way to school. I’d pretty much done the same thing I’d done every day of my life since starting school. I hadn’t changed my routine. I hadn’t walked any new streets or spoken to any new people. I had the same friends and only talked to the same people at church. My life was pretty ritualistic when I really thought about it. I didn’t change much from day to day except the food I ate and clothes I wore. Oh! Clothes! I packed up some clothes the folks at church had asked me to bring by the shelter a few weeks ago. I’d totally forgotten about them because I was in the midst of studying for the summer session exams. I’d picked up some classes to get ahead and it really was too much for me. But I digress, back to the young man and why I noticed him yesterday and not all the days before.
I sat down to take some time to pray for protection, after all, I didn’t know what I was about to walk into and I needed to know God would be with me. That is it! That is why I saw him! I suddenly remembered how we had been singing at church and the pastor had stopped the service and talked to us about the words we sang. Did we really believe them? Did we sing them meaning them or were they just words we were repeating in an effort to move the service along. She suggested we not sing the song but let it minister to us. She told us to hear the words and repeat them inside our head until we truly meant them and then speak them. As I sat there listening to the words, I began to tear up. It was a new song we hadn’t sung at church before and wasn’t really a song you typically hear at church.
Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see,
Everything that I keep missing,
Give your love for humanity.
Give me your arms for the broken-hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach.
Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten.
Give me Your eyes so I can see.Songwriters: Jason David Ingram / Brandon HeathGive Me Your Eyes lyrics © Peermusic Publishing, Essential Music Publishing
Did I really to pray that prayer? Did I really want God’s eyes? Did I want to see what He sees in this world? Since I am going to school for psychology I decided I did. I wanted to see the world through His eyes and stop seeing with my brain. I wanted vision not just sight. I wanted to not just see in front of me, but see what was ahead and how I could help people to get ahead when they couldn’t see in front of them. So I began singing loudly, with all of my heart.
As I walked toward the building, I saw the shoes and my heart started to pound within my chest. I was really doing this and nothing was going to stop me. I walked up to the young man who started to move as I approached him. I introduced myself to him and after he realized I was harmless, we spoke for a little while. I learned why he was sleeping outside and where he had come from. I heard the crack in his voice as he shared his story with me. I felt his pain as he told me of the fight with his family and how he was tired of not being accepted as he was. How we was tired of the fighting and going through life by himself. It started as an adrenaline thing… wondering if they would even noticed he’d left the house. The first few nights hadn’t bothered him because he knew they’d come looking for him. After a couple of weeks went by, he realized they really didn’t care. His mother was too busy to notice, and his father had probably moved on to beating his little brother. He had so much on his mind and didn’t know where to get help. When he’d stopped by the state office, the line was so long that he didn’t have the patience to wait on an empty stomach, so he’d gone back a few hours later and saw the same people in the waiting room. He didn’t even have information to give them – his mother had his birth certificate and social security card. He was still in high school.
As we sat there talking, I shared with him my prayer and how I wanted to help him but I didn’t know how. I offered to show him the homeless shelter that I’d been asked to drop the clothes off to and see if he could get a bed there while we found out what he could do to get help. He was thankful and explained that he hadn’t missed a day of school. He was showering in the gym locker room and staying late after school for help with homework but he was too embarrassed to ask anyone to stay with them. He wondered what would happen to his brother if he’d told anyone that his parents hadn’t seen him in months. As we walked to the shelter, we learned he had to first go to the police station and verify that he wasn’t on drugs. His reaction said it all! He’d never used drugs. He was an athlete and didn’t have time for it. This was just a kid who was tired of a life that shouldn’t have been to full of tragedy and pain. We walked to the police station only to find out that because he was a minor, they couldn’t help him. He needed to go home. The overworked desk Sargent offered to call child services and the young man ran out of the station like a man who’d just stolen millions of dollars.
I walked back to his spot and talked with him some more as he shook, clearly exhibiting symptoms of PTSD. We talked about what he could do for the night and he was adamant that he would sleep on the stoop. It was the weekend so he would stop at the soup kitchen and then hang out at the library. When it closed, he’d return to the doorway and hope that it would still be his.
My heart broke at how I couldn’t help him and nothing had changed from our interaction other than him now knowing that there was no help for him other than to call Child Protective Services. I was really sad and asked if I could pray with him for protection and for him to stay cool in the humid weather. He agreed despite telling me that he didn’t believe in God and I prayed a simple prayer that God would protect him and speak to him as he slept. I asked that tomorrow he would run into someone who could help him. After all, I was praying to the Creator of the world. That could happen, right?
I spent that evening sad for this young man. I didn’t understand how he had to sleep on that step. How there was not an alternative to being stuck in foster care while an investigation was completed. I felt like 16 was old enough to have other options. I started doing some searching online and digging through resources I’d learned about while in school. Throughout the night, I started to feel a simple peace fall over me.
The next day I went to visit the young man but he was gone. There was no sign he’d even slept there, though I know I left him sitting there. I walked down the streets and checked out the library and soup kitchen only to find that they were closed on Sundays. I learned that Saturdays were the only days the homeless were able to get meals and that the library didn’t open on Sundays until noon. I headed to church and saw how my rituals that week had been broken and how I had felt alive for the past two days. I felt such passion about helping that young man. After church I walked by the doorway and noticed it was still empty. I walked home longing to know what had happened.
It’s been six months and I haven’t seen the young man since the day we walked through town trying to find resources to help him. I can’t tell you what happened to him because I don’t know. I’ve check the papers and asked around at the shelter and soup kitchen, which I’ve started volunteering at, but I’ve had no luck. Because of him, I have developed a list of resources to help people in his situation and ensure they can have a safe place to sleep even if under age. I sometimes wonder if the young man was an angel, as the Bible talks about entertaining angels unaware (Hebrews 13:2). I may never know but I know I no longer have a ritual and I see people and places differently. I am able to look with a better understanding of what is going on beneath the surface instead of just taking things for what I see.
How’s your sight? Do you use vision or just see things?
This was originally posted on a site I no longer use (shellverapoetry.wordpress.com) in 2018.