I am in love with the soup kitchen. It’s like this magical garden that, out of nothing, suddenly blooms with remarkable and unique people and objects, or like a hallucination that comes shimmering to life and then is gone as if it was never there, but later that day or early the next, the whole thing happens again, just as mysteriously and beautifully.
One week there was a long-haired guy behind some shrubbery listening to a heavy metal CD at a healthy volume as he held a triangular wooden guitar and pretended to play along. I heard Metallica, among others. He perfectly looked the part, but more than that, I eventually figured out it was actually him playing every tune. I thanked him later for the excellent music and he smiled shyly.
Yesterday a fellow I talk to every week told me he loves the feeling of refuge and safety there, just knowing, once he passes through the gate, that he’s out of public view. I never had thought about that, what it would be like to be seen or potentially seen at every moment.
There was a thing in the paper about a priest, I think, who was attacked by a homeless person who was trying to pee on one of the church’s trees. I’m sorry the priest got pushed down, which resulted in a broken wrist, but I also can’t help thinking that Jesus would have said, “Of course you can pee on the church’s tree! After that, I’ll make you some lunch.” I suspect that priest doesn’t know what it’s like not to be able to perform a basic bodily function without a lot of hassle. Maybe that homeless person had been needing to pee for hours and, after refraining from peeing on a store window on a busy sidewalk, finally spotted a tree out of sight of the public.
As I left the soup kitchen, I ran into Carlos’s friend Rodney. We chatted and then he said, “I’m going to give you a hug,” and he smilingly extended his arms as if offering a hug, but he wasn’t that close to me, so it was an energetic hug. He added, “Like the best hug Carlos ever gave you.” I think I can remember which hug that was, and I walked off in tears, over Rodney’s sweetness, and thinking of the man just relieved to sit in the garden, and of the smile on the face of another volunteer as he spoke with the guests. I know that volunteer suffered a shocking and major loss of his own, and it was moving to see him completely absorbed and joyful, for that moment free of memories of his loss, and also passing on the love that came from that person who is now gone.