Gratitude List 1397

This morning’s daily gratitude.

(1) Though I slept only four hours sporadically, I did get a solid afternoon nap yesterday and also have confidence I’ll sleep more deeply at some point in the near future.   I’m grateful for a light schedule these days that doesn’t hassle me or make me too uptight, and I’m always thankful for the power of needed sleep.

(2) Grateful to have a nice quiet apartment to myself, where I can enjoy the quiet hours of darkness before the dawn, and usually get a lot of writing done, unhindered by interruptions from others.

(3) Nice to hear the rain pitter-pattering outside my window.   After so many years of sleeping outdoors, it’s nice to be inside.

(4) The six-piece praise ensemble at my church really did an outstanding job premiering my first-ever worship song, “I Want to Worship You,” yesterday.  They were so gentle and genuine with it, I was so honored for them to have selected it.   They put their hearts into it, and I was blessed.

(5) I’ve been faithful to meditate twenty minutes daily, with a few days off here and there.  It’s helping me to effect a better balance in life, and not be so self-destructively driven in the area of creative output.  Also, a local math professor gifted me with a copy of The Cloud of Unknowing in contemporary English.   That’s the book that influenced my pastor’s meditative practice, and it’s helping to inform mine, as well.   

(6) I also just found a free pdf of the book Please Understand Me online.  Eager to delve back into David Kiersey’s unique Myers-Briggs type descriptions, from which I learned so much in the 90’s.

(7) Today marks three and a half years that I have lived indoors after many years of struggling on the San Francisco Bay Area streets.  I’ve paid my rent on time every month, and have mostly lived alone here, with a few house guests here and there.   Between my music and writing gigs, and a healthy retirement income from the government, I have not had to suffer for bread.  Everybody thought I was going to die a pathetic, meaningless death in a gutter.  And now, in the midst of life’s trials and setbacks,  I am nonetheless happier than I have ever been in my life.

(8) Been walking about seven miles a day lately, briskly.  I even did fifteen push-ups in a single set the other day.  I’m thinking I can get by on running just twice a week, and still do the Eugene Half Marathon in April.  It will be a rush to run at sea level again after training at such a high altitude here in North Idaho.

(9) Very grateful for the community of artists, writers, and musicians that I prayed for so desperately for so many years, when I had found myself instead surrounded by hustlers, hookers, and thieves.   The community has come together even more in the wake of the death of a dear friend — a musician named Paul — one of the most vibrant and magnanimous people I have ever met.   He will be remembered in his glaring absence at the Open Mike on Friday.   May Paul Anders rest in the same joy and peace he brought to us all.

(10) God is Love.  

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The God Who Believes in Me

This undated piece was written in Berkeley in early 2016.  I hope it gives you a picture of what Homelessness was like — for me.  

It’s driving me nuts having to be outdoors while almost everybody I can halfway relate to in life is indoors. If I relate to the people who live outdoors, it is because we all live outdoors. We share the values and mores of outdoor living in common, even if we share nothing else. But ninety percent of the time – damn right we share nothing else.

Approximately three times a week, someone who lives outside, someone whom I’ve never seen before, emerges out of someplace where I’ve probably never been and threatens to knock the crap out of me.  Yet I am a man of peace.  I only want to make my music.  I want to sit down with my laptop, crank up my music notation software, and compose.  But if I even dare get my hands on a laptop at these days, I’m an easy mark for every living thing that hides behind a bush.  I’ve been hit on the head with guns down here. If I buy a laptop, they assume it’s for trade or sale.  If I’m not willing to sell it, they might just take it by force.  My musicianship means nothing to a predator.

Maybe five times a week, a person who lives inside (whom I’ve also never seen before) approaches me and asks: “Are you homeless?”   How I have come to hate that question!  I almost disdain telling the truth, because I am so tired of seeing so much blood come pouring out of their heart, you’d think they’d have expected me to slurp it up and drink it.  Then, as they begin to promote whatever form of “help” they think best suits me, I find that in order to gain access to their assistance, I will be required to change my taste in food, my outlook on life, my political philosophy, and sometimes even my religion.   I’m frickin’ sixty-three years old, for God’s sake!!  I worked all my life!!  And they’re asking me to change my faith?  Now, of all times?  My faith is exactly what has kept me alive throughout twelve years of indignity and insanity.  Why should I abandon that which has helped me the most, in order to risk being hurt more than helped by the benign but misinformed intentions of a total stranger?   

I know a very conservative homeless man who tells me he is expected to become a liberal because it is the liberals who are feeding him.  But I have also seen many who identify as liberals become homeless, only to find themselves expected to become conservatives because, in their case, it’s the conservative Christians who feed them.   Why is that, just because someone is down on their luck, they are expected to adopt the views of those who are not?  Everyone is entitled to their own perspective, and it angers me that I should be expected to adopt the perspective of another person only because that person happens to have a roof over their head and more money than I do.  Just because a person is in a higher socio-economic class doesn’t make them right.  All it means is that they are in a better position to take advantage of another person’s weakness.  And in my case, that weakness is H– H–H–  My God, I don’t even want to speak the word anymore! 

What word?  The H-Word!  Homeless!  The word that, in one way, nobody ever hears — and in another way, it’s the only word they hear. It’s maddening. It’s exasperating. It’s more than frustrating – it’s infuriating.

Then there are the those who are not strangers.   These are the ones to whom I once was close, perhaps even intimate — the well-meaning friends and family members who want to “help.”  Oh, they’ll help all right!  They’ll help in any way they can shy of actually putting a roof over my head.  They’re always looking for the problem that “caused” me to become homeless, as if solving whatever that elusive problem might be could possibly solve the much more enormous problem that is Homelessness Itself.  None of those band-aids can possibly heal the wound of Homelessness.   That wound is way too deep for that.

There’s this huge division between the people who live outdoors and those who live indoors. It’s almost as though we’re an entirely different species. I can’t seem to do anything to bridge the gap, nor can I seem to do anything to get myself back inside. I’ve tried everything. All the suggestions everybody gives – they only lead me back to Homelessness. They never hit the core issue at its heart. So I get into this space where I start thinking: “Well, screw it. What’s the use of even trying?”  

I shrug my shoulders.  I head back to my Spot, lean my back against the brick wall of the BART station at the corner of Shattuck & Allston, take off my hat, and hold up a sign that reads:

BROKE AND HOMELESS
OFTEN HUNGRY
PLEASE HELP IF YOU CAN

I silently watch them all go by.  I make eye contact.  I look as many of them in the eye as possible.  Then, slowly but surely, little bits of change find their way into my hat.  Then a couple of dollars here and there, every now and then a five, a ten if I’m lucky, perhaps even a twenty.  People ask if they can buy me a sandwich.  Some people sneer, but they’re easy to overlook.  By and by, I calm down.  I forget my frustrations, my angst.  I meditate.  I pray.  I look around me, and it is a beautiful day in the city that I love.

An hour goes by, and suddenly it doesn’t matter any longer what they all think.  No longer am I driven nuts.  Then another half hour or so goes by, and I remember something.  I remember who I am.  I know who I am.  I even like who I am.   So what’s that word I hear?  The H-Word?  Is that supposed to say something about me?  Ah but no – perhaps we have forgotten.  Nothing says anything about me but the Me who Knows Who Me Is.   I Am the One I Am.

Three hours go by.  I pick up my cash.  The sun is setting.   I weave my way off toward the spot where I sleep, where nobody knows where to find me.   I look to the stars, and say my prayers to the God who believes in Me.

Please help raise public awareness as to the Homeless Phenomenon in America.
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