A Vacant Look

Carmen - Montreal, Canada
Entered on June 16, 2007

The homeless man goes on knowing he has tried all he can, but I know that even given a chance, through my love and the love of God, he could become great.

“Why should anyone be homeless?” I asked myself. I see so many without shelter. It’s like counting each pebble of sand, and not knowing where to begin. “How can I help?”

I wondered. My heart begins to crash in sorrow, like a wave pounding as a drum against my soul.

I feel the fear of my ignorance and the worry of what I know. I can see the solitude, loneliness, helplessness and the feelings of rejection of loved ones and some in society, a desperation of needing to be heard, understood and loved.

Having been in many helpless situations myself as a single mom in my own life, I can remember the many tears I shed. I would have to count the amount of eggs to the slices of bread making sure my children would have a morning breakfast, and not go hungry. Or, when pulling a little wooden sled having my baby in front, leaning on the grocery bags, with me pulling without any gloves to wear on a very cold crisp winter morning feeling the chill through my bones. The sound of the snow would crackle under my sneakers, and my heart was breaking like the sound of snapping twigs. And remembering how I washed our dishes in a cheap motel bathroom sink.

Many times tears filled my eyes, not knowing when my next meal would come. Many as myself, come from all walks of life, bills to pay without having enough funds to make ends meet. As a loving mom I know mothers will deny themselves to put their children’s needs first, and in all humility will lower their self-esteem for the love of their children. It seems as though the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

I waited in the sidelines of silence, as the world slowly felt as though it had crept toward its end. Dismayed but not disillusioned, I began to question the existence of what is called “Justice”. Did it exist? Would it ever come? I wondered. It felt like a mirage to me of what I would like to see in everyone, hoping all would take notice. But the world seems to turn away and the homeless are left aside carrying with them only a vacant look. All I could think of saying to myself was, “God bless you” as I stood silently and prayed.

I have stood in food bank lines waiting for a brown paper bag of minimum supplies. Many parents have carried as I have, feelings of shame, humility and loss of self esteem. I have also worked in food kitchens to prepare meals to be able to make it through the week, during that poverty stricken time of my own life. I have always cried thinking how the homeless could live this way every day.

I began doing volunteer work at a food bank. I worked in the distribution of the bread and dessert department. The food was labeled with nearly expired dates, and some were already expired. Watching families receive this food tore my heart. I felt that they deserved so much better and more. The mothers would smile in shyness and the fathers bowed their head down with hurt pride. I remember seeing the joy in the children’s faces when I would give them the choice of their favorite dessert. Cake with lots of frosting and chocolate chip cookies of course were some of their favorites. I would even get hugs which to me were even sweeter than sugar pie. Their appreciation and thankfulness was forever instilled in my thoughts. I have walked and lived in their shoes before. Suddenly I noticed a father, sitting in a plastic beige chair. His head was bowed down looking nervously as his hands held each other while rolling his thumbs. Upon his face was a saddened look of despair that I once knew.

By a divine glimpse of hope, I began searching for answers. I knew times were headed for perilous conditions, but as I pondered this in my mind, I began to pray and knew I had heard the cries of the poor and the desolate.

During one of my short hospital stays prior, I had observed a particular nurse caring for a homeless man. I knew in my heart I wanted to do what I had seen from her one day, to fulfill my desire to serve every homeless person the Lord would put on my path.

Trying to put myself in the nurse’s position, I recall watching a homeless man. This gentle, spirited man captured my heart. He entered the hospital wing where I was. His clothes were found in a dumpster, having a coat with shades of army khaki green colors that was twice his size. His dark navy blue slacks were faded and too short. The hem of his pants were torn, and ripped across the knee. His hair was gray and looked as though it had never been combed. His beard was long and his silver gray moustache covered his upper lip, making it difficult to see if he wore a smile or a frown. The homeless man looked at the nurse with his head slightly bowed in shame.

My eyes filled with tears. I gasped and tried to catch my breath. He seemed so pitiful to me, but so peaceful, loving and gentle. I didn’t want to stare and make him uncomfortable for I didn’t quite know what to say or do. Part of me wanted to go hug him and part of me was afraid he would think or feel I did it only out of pity. I knew in my heart I felt God’s love flow through me. I watched, as everyone turned away from the scent he carried of burned-up ashes. I was so moved with emotion because the smile of this unknown man told me he knew he’d be cared for and I believe he felt loved. I wanted so much to be in the caretaker’s place to help. To do something, anything.

The nurse brought him in and he showered, had his hair cut, his mustache trimmed, a clean cut shave and his toenails were clipped. He came out wearing striped white and light blue men’s pajamas. I stood in awe! This beautiful man looked so elegant to me, a true gentleman that I would have never recognized as the one I had earlier seen come in. His smile was like a child when they open a Christmas gift they have always wanted and hoped for. He was glowing with joy. My heart was overflowed with love and delight. The precious gift of love God had given to him, he gave to me as well. I felt like a live band of music was playing in my heart as I cheered and was filled with a child’s laughter.

I have learned much about life and myself through many experiences. I see my immense sensitivity to others’ needs and the hurting world around me. Through this curiosity I have learned regarding my inspirational poetry (that I myself have been inspired to write) has often been related to suffering, loneliness, despair and pain. This has also been a way for me to release my feelings, as through a personal journal of prayer. The Lord Jesus has given me this gift and I pray and hope to one day build a homeless shelter, so that through him (Jesus) others may see that there is hope, and have no longer a need to carry with them “a vacant look.”