Whether naked or afraid
In the most desolate of places
In the loneliest of moments
Or the darkest of spaces
Not a penny to your name
Nor a coat on your back
Not a crumb in your stomach
Nor a morsel to snack
Closest to death
And the end now in sight
On your last breath
And losing the fight
It matters not time
It matters not place
You can always find humor
And a smile on your face.
I felt bad when she left, but then we both understood.
When your on-paper budget shows you have an unallocated surplus of around $120/mo, I can’t justify paying for your eyeglasses or prescriptions as I’m accustomed to doing with so many dirt poor 80somethings I see each week. She’s frugal, that’s for sure. Doesn’t fritter away portions of her small income on gambling, drinking, smoking, extensive cable channels or other luxuries. Even does her own hair and nails. I showed her how on her small social security income, she can save a hundred bucks a month if she adopts the budget plan from our meeting today.
She walked in thinking she’d walk out with a deal to pay for a new pair of glasses. But she got much more. She leaves with insight and pride knowing she actually doesn’t need help but can easily buy her own glasses within the next month. That light bulb made all the difference in the world to Shirley today, and she was more pleased to know she can be self-sufficient instead of self-reliant.
“Shirley, I really wanted to pay for those glasses for you,” I said as we walked down the hall from my office. She stopped me with her pointer finger. “Don’t, it’s okay. Since my husband passed, nobody ever took the time to show me how to budget or to save in so many areas I never knew. I may be walking out without the glasses but you made me feel like a million bucks. I know I’ll be able to pay for them myself because of how you showed me. And where I come from, that’s how I was raised, and how I raised my own children.
We meet again one month from today to place her order online.
I love where I work. link2hope.org
I didn’t have it in me to take even one more call.
I was on my 13th hour of the workweek’s final day, fueled by only a 20 minute sandwich and that flashing red light on my phone kept blinking. It was already after five when I mistook it for a stoplight from God at the intersection of a long day. I’d earned my drive home, dinner with my dog and what’s lately been more like a short winter’s naps than good nights of sleep. But it’s my weekend.
After my Monday morning hot shower and shave, sporting a topcoat the length of which was destined to rival the day ahead in this business of keeping poor people housed and fed with the lights on, the red flashing light would surely still be there for me this morning along with a dozen other calls from the unfortunate many.
502am at the office, I turned on the coffee and tended to my opening routine down the dark hall, passing my office doorway where the room was still illuminated red from the tiny light on my phone that had begged an answer all weekend but for which I’d not had the time.
Coffee in hand, I listened.
A 74 year old man had just watched his home, bed and a backseat of possessions be towed from a nearby parking lot and he needed a place to sleep for the night, some transportation, and a little hope.
There are times I question the very things I have come to believe I deserve.
This business of flashing red lights can eat you alive and spit your heart out one day with no shred of mercy in the morning.
It’s 511am and I’m on the phone trying to reach that cold old man from last week, a little forgiveness, and personal redemption for what will be another thankless day, but very strangely worth every moment.
Strokes on a canvas
A scurrying cursor
Or notes on a staff.
Some do it in color
Some do it in ink
In every medium
Whatever they think.
Art is our freedom
The song in our skies
Art never dies.