I offer a sandwich and water to a homeless woman. She is sitting on the sidewalk with a group of homeless people I have known for a while. She is nodding off from heroin and ignores my culinary offerings. I begin to talk with another gentleman, when I hear her yell, “hey, where is the food.” I apologize, saying I misunderstood and thought she didn’t want anything. Upon receiving the sandwich, she begins a series of interrogating questions. When were the sandwiches made? Why did you not pass them out in the morning if you received them in the morning. Who made them? Why do you think I need a sandwich? I answer each question and think, you are under no obligation to eat the food I am handing out. I do understand the frustration she is expressing. People often assume homeless people will be grateful to receive their rotten leftovers and dirty clothes. She asks me why I think homeless people are garbage cans and starts to pick the sandwich apart, throwing bread, meat, and cheese, from the Metropolitan Market into the bushes. I must confess that my inner monologue wasn’t, “oh she is having a rough day”. I thought about all the time I have spent trying to make sure homeless people don’t get treated like garbage cans and how I didn’t want her to throw food at me. I was hit by a glass of milk years ago and am not naïve to the possibility of projectile picnics. She continues to escalate so we walk over to my friend Matthew. We talk about the 80’s tv show Nightrider. I win older guy pop culture points for remembering that the cars name was Kit. Matthew says Kit was more than a talking car, he was artificial intelligence. He asks me how I am doing and how long I have been married. We shoot the breeze for a while before we move to a group of guys playing cards.
I have learned not to interrupt gambling on the street. If someone starts to lose money while I am blabbing about socks and Jesus, I will be blamed for bringing them bad luck. A few men look up from their cards and get water and sandwiches. A younger guy is walking through the park with a shirt on that says repent for the kingdom of God is at hand. He introduces himself and tells me how he has been called by God to warn people about the antichrist. He gives me his literature and I wish him well. We approach a tent and meet a woman who is eight months pregnant. She sees my collar and my coworkers’ cross necklace and asks us to pray for her. We hold hands and she begins to sob. We pray against shame and guilt. We thank God for being a God of life and we pray for her soon to be son. She is struggling with addiction and is struggling to remain hopeful. She is trying to “get right with God”. I share that Jesus is a cry baby and we read Psalm 56:8. “You have kept track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle, You have recorded each one in your book.” I give her my number and tell her to call me anytime. She is visibly moved from our exchange, and I am overwhelmed by the goodness of God. Later in the evening we visit are friend Marta in her tent. She always gives me a hug and thanks me, calling me Father. She is a little flirty. Last week, with a mischievous grin and giggle she called me grandpa. After she gets her supplies, she thanks us for remembering her. We see Ivan on a scooter by the waterfront. He tells us that he has cancer and that its not the worst thing that has ever happened to him. Before motoring off, he leaves us with some wisdom. “Suffering is relative. It depends on your perspective.”