and so I love

I scan the room for him

no sign of his face, those eyes, that smile

I walk to the door and peer outside

someone is lying in the grass, in the sun

napping

or so it seems

It is my friend, my brother

and I am glad he is resting

The rain has poured for days

and his camp was flooded

So now he sleeps

under the sun that for today is a friend

but will soon, in a month or so, become

the enemy

making the out-of-doors unbearable

all over again

I walk over and tease him

He looks up and grins

always in good spirits when he’s had a drink

or a few

He went to church he says

and he is pleased with himself

with the church, the pastor

with the words he heard and sang

They mean something to him

For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

these words from Matthew 6:25 he hears and agrees with

“you know,” he says to me, looking me in the eyes, squinting in the sun, ” I am like that.  I don’t worry where my food is coming from”

and then his words break my heart

“I know which dumpsters to look in if I’m hungry”

the pain shows on my face

“Don’t look like that–it’s okay–some friends, they put food there, in separate bags”

the image stops me cold

my friend doesn’t worry

he takes life in stride

he finds his food in bags in dumpsters

put there by friends, by kind souls, who know

who anticipate

someone might come along and need the leftovers

the cast-off food,

what can no longer be served?

“oh ye of little faith” echoes in my head

and volleys back and forth

with “the Lord helps those who help themselves”

I don’t know which says what anymore

about my journey and where I am

I no longer know how to help my friend

and so I listen, and I tell him I’m glad

he can find food so easily

though this is so foreign to me

and just beyond my comprehension

I live in a bubble, I think to myself sometimes

I am not strong or aware or making a difference

and so I listen, and I tell him to take care, be careful

He says he is, asks me the time

the time is 3:30 and that only marks for him how much longer

he will be able to lie in the sun

before the gate will be locked for another day

He tells me he will nap

and then head back into the woods, hoping the sun and wind

have been his friend

and dried his tent and blankets

and other things of his

I wish I could take him home with me, or put him in a room

somewhere dry and safe and warm when the night winds blow

but we tried finding him a place, a place of help and

sanctuary and refuge and challenge

and he did well for a while

but in the end, the wind called him back

the bottle sang her alluring song

and, in the words of my Daddy, who had the same blue eyes

and wrinkles when he laughed

“You can want it for them,

but you can’t make them do it”

I can’t make him want sobriety

or a home or to be any different than he is

and I won’t ask him to be anyway

And so I listen

and I love

I love on days that the laughter is slurred

and on days the words are clear

on days my friend is clean and fresh

and on days he misses the sign up for a shower

or doing laundry

I love my friend when he laughs and I love him

when the sadness rolls in

like a heavy fog following an afternoon storm

I love him when the dreams are big and beautiful

and when the nightmares are scary and dark

I don’t have much left to give him

but love

and hope

and acceptance

and

wonder–wondering about that faith of his, is it strength of faith

or foolhardiness

that gives him peace about food and the next day and life

as he lies in the afternoon sun?

God spoke to my friend, this man I call brother

and brought him peace,

peace for today

and for that

tonight

I give thanks

 

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