A couple mornings ago, I awoke a bit later than usual. After a brief period of reflection, I decided to forego my morning shower, gather up my things, and set forth into the world.
A gentle rain proceeded to plop upon me.
“Funny,” I thought. “This reminds me of all those times when I was homeless, and a shower was hard to come by. I would feel a rain like this, and I’d suddenly be really grateful. At least my clothes were getting washed, and I was getting a bit of a badly needed shower.”
For another block or so, I continued to enjoy the heavenly feeling of water from above gifting my body with a “courtesy rinse” – no strings attached, free of charge. After a while, though, the thrill wore off. I began to brood.
“Somehow,” I mused, “the gratitude that I feel is not so huge as it once might have been. Sure I’m getting rained on rather nicely. Of course this is quite pleasant. But — did I really need to evoke the rain for this purpose?”
I paused to wipe off the back of my neck, where a large drop had leaped down upon me from somewhere within the branches of a tall tree overhead. As the cold water slipped down my back beneath my shirt, I grimaced.
“I have my own shower, you know!” I cried aloud, as though needing to remind myself. “I could have given myself an extra ten or fifteen minutes. Of course, the rain would still be tossed upon my back, but at least I wouldn’t be thinking of it as my shower substitute.”
I pulled a part of my corduroy blazer up toward my nose.
“Seems a bit ratty, if you ask me.” I frowned. “In fact, the whole outfit could use a wash. When was the last time I did the laundry?”
It wasn’t long before the previously pleasant memory of free showers past had faded completely from my consciousness.
“There’s no excuse for this!” I shouted at a large, looming cloud of darkness. “The days when I needed a rain like you are long past. I have my own shower — I even have my own tub. I could have easily waited another ten minutes to clean myself up if I had known this was going to happen.”
But the rain continued, more-or-less treacherously, more-or-less cynically — as though my frivolous complaint meant nothing in the face of such cosmic inevitability.
“I can also wash my own clothes without your assistance,” I added. “It’s a minor hassle trying to make sure I have the right change, but for three bucks in quarters, the laundry room isn’t very much further than the shower. It used to be . . . “
At around this point, I stopped and slowed somewhat. For one thing, I realized that I had been talking to myself. The clouds weren’t listening, and the rain seemed almost stoic in its indifference to my plight. For another thing, I had begun to sense a strange poignancy couched within the mundane. Despite the apathy of the unfeeling elements, there was a sense of great caring and concern emerging. Wherever it came from, I wasn’t sure. But it was real.
“It used to be,” I continued, “that if I needed clean clothing, I might as well just get a whole new outfit at the thrift shop, and leave the dirty clothes behind. It only cost a few pennies more than having to do everything in a laundromat, and besides I had no explaining to do after stripping down to my running shorts in public, just to make sure I still had something on while all the rest of my clothes were tumbling. Easier just to buy new duds once a week or so. No matter how many times I washed my clothes or showered anyway, it would still be pretty much assumed that I hadn’t.
“It used to be, people would walk past my Spot and hold their noses in a gesture of scorn. Funny, though — I hung around homeless people all the time, and unless the guy was drunk or something, I never smelled anything. Then again, I wasn’t looking for it. Funny how we often find whatever it is we’re looking for — even when it isn’t there.
“It used to be, no matter how much I tried to make my presence more palatable to passersby, I could not escape the scorn, the ridicule — I remember once how a man walked by and shouted: ‘Take a shower!’ This was literally less than fifteen minutes after I’d just stepped out of the shower at the Multi Agency Service Center. Made me feel as though the three hours I’d spent waiting in the line for the shower that morning had all been for naught.
“It used to be, they treated me like I wasn’t even human. Just a piece of garbage, littering the sidewalk with my being. But now . . . “
The clouds moved more quickly for a spell.
“But now, they treat me like — one of the gang. One of the crowd. A person worth smiling at. A person whose smile is meaningful . . . is safe . . .
“Yeah!” I laughed. “When was the last time I had the experience of being treated as though I were not even human?”
The sun slipped very nicely between a couple of passing clouds. My gait lightened, as the Latah Recovery Center loomed in the distance. I like to say a prayer before I step in the door to begin my shift. My prayer, this time, was thus:
There was a time when I slept on my back in a thunderstorm
in a church parking lot, having no blanket,
and looking up at the howling night sky,
having no choice but to shout: “Bring it on!”
I was stormed on for years, Lord.
I want you to know how thankful I am
to be rained on
by a Rain like You.
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