Nothing gets me out of my shell more than the chance to help someone.
I ran into my friend and neighbor on the street, Samuel.
He hijacked my whole day.
I went into the market he hangs out in front of,
and I came out with the Powerade and Tuna Fish sandwich he likes,
and we sat on the steps and talked for a while as he ate.
We got the usual judging looks from people
who treat him like a criminal for being homeless.
Sometimes they glare at me too for being friends with him.
When we laugh about it, it doesn’t seem to bother him as much.
He said he was cold at night.
So we got in my car and went on a quest for a sleeping bag.
He said they have them at a 99 cent store in Hollywood.
The parking was full. We had to wait to get in.
After forever, I finally got a parking place.
But Samuel was wrong.
They didn’t even carry sleeping bags;
but it wasn’t a bust:
I met a few more neighbors without homes in that parking lot,
like Harvey, who was singing like an undiscovered R&B great.
He told me his stories, and it turns out he was a bull rider in the 1966 black rodeo
in Texas, which is where I’m from.
He also sang songs I knew from Texas radio as a kid.
He knew a lot of Loretta Lynn, and Merle Haggard too.
I sang with him on the parts I knew,
but fortunately he was loud enough to drown me out.
He told me I’m an alto.
I didn’t know there was a word for what came out my mouth.
.I’m supposed to go back there with a guitar sometime.
Harvey wants me to jam some blues so he can wail.
That sounds good to me.
I also met Levert who was selling some incense that he made.
You can get some at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
And I met another man whose name I didn’t catch, but his smile stayed with me throughout the day.
So many of us who are blessed to have a home never smile such happiness.
Samuel and I ended up driving to Target for the sleeping bag;
plus a coat, gloves and a thermal shirt.
Walking with that shopping cart together in a department store made us both laugh.
He said, “They think we’re a married couple!”
I told him to take the compliment,
he told ME to take the compliment.
That went on for longer than it should’ve.
I dropped him off at the usual Hollywood back street
where the Food Truck comes and people are hanging out,
mostly laying on the sidewalk, tired and hungry.
Every time I’m there I feel I’ve got to do something.
I feel more real in having a conversation with a neighbor on the street,
than I do when I’m shopping in a store and no one is making eye contact.
Is consumerism really the mark of a human being’s value?
When I was standing in the parking lot with Levert, Harvey, Samuel, and “Smiley,”
singing laughing and talking,
I felt happy, and I couldn’t help but notice
it was only white faces that were scowling at us.
Sometimes I’m grateful I don’t fit in.
Sometimes I’m grateful I just don’t get it.
I’m happiest when my white face is loving people and having fun.