Q. What are you doing here?
A. Waking up.
Q. Literally or figuratively?
Q. Aren’t you usually an early riser?
A. Up at 3 this morning. There’s a chair where I meditate sometimes. I sat down to meditate, and fell asleep.
Q. Is this a good thing?
A. Sleep? Generally, yes. I don’t think we get enough of it.
A. We the People of Today’s Society. We seem to run ragged on the lack of it, and even glorify ourselves in the process, as though proud of this insanity.
Q. How did we ever get that way?
A. First Industrial Revolution, I suppose. From there it happened gradually.
Q. What about figuratively?
A. Figuratively? Refresh my memory.
Q. Aren’t you waking up in some sense other than the literal?
A. Well yeah. Waking up to some of the harder realities. Folly in my behavior. False sense of nobility. Twisted use of the Golden Rule.
A. Check it out:
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. — Luke 6:35
Q. How did you twist that rule?
A. How do ya think?
Q. Did you expect something in return?
A. Yeah. I didn’t think I did at the time, but I did. When I was homeless, I expected compassion from people who lived indoors. That was a pretty unwieldy expectation. It set me up for a lot of disappointment. Then when I lived indoors, I expected respect from those who were homeless. That didn’t happen either.
Q. But the passage refers to loving your enemies. Who, then, were your enemies?
A. That’s a loaded question. For a long time, my enemies were just about anybody who slept in a bed, and who wouldn’t let me inside their front door, even for a half hour to take a needed shower, even when offered money in return.
Q. And how did you try to love these enemies?
A. By appealing to them. By making them more important than my friends. By trying to state my case, very respectfully, as to why they should let me inside their front doors. By advising them how great their rewards would be in heaven if they did so.
Q. And who were your friends?
A. Homeless people. People in the same boat. People who knew how hard it was to be out there — not just being rained on — that wasn’t one tenth of it. It was being stormed on — by people. By condescending social workers, treating us as though we were good-for-nothing, incompetent nobodies. By cops, security guards, business owners, property owners — and worst of all, other homeless people. It was this indignity, this demeaning demoralizing crap, crammed into our heads, day after day, year after year — this idea that we were somehow worse than other human beings — if indeed, we were even regarded as human at all. Much of the time, we were regarded rather as inanimate objects to be stepped around and shouted over, whilst we tried unsuccessfully to get our good night’s sleeps.
Q. Go on.
A. I remember my one friend Jerome — a big black guy. He and D’Angelo, another big black guy, they kinda protected me. We slept in a big vacant lot. I had my laptop. If someone wanted to steal it, they’d have to get past these two big guys. So I wasn’t so easy a mark.
Q. What about Jerome?
A. He would say to me — “Andy, if you ever get lucky enough to get inside again, you’re not going to be one of those guys who never lets us inside your house, are you?”
Q. What was your answer?
A. My answer was: “No! Of course not! I know what it’s like out here — I could never do that to any of you.”
Q. Then what?
A. Then I got inside.
Q. And you didn’t let them in?
A. I was thousands of miles away. And light years away in culture. I couldn’t let them in, so I let other homeless people in. Homeless people, and people who were on the verge of homelessness.
Q. And what happened?
A. Every single one of them took a gigantic dump on my good nature.
Q. How so?
A. It pains me to go into detail. I made house rules. No alcohol in my house. No cigarettes, no overnight guests, no sex. Lights out at ten.
Q. And they disobeyed your rules?
A. Yes. They dishonored my graciousness. So you know what that means? I expected something in return. I expected appreciation. I expected respect. So where was the Golden Rule then?
Q. Aren’t you being a little —
A. Hard on myself? Don’t even go there. Yes, Jesus said to feed the hungry, to help the needy, and to take in the homeless. He didn’t say that after I take in the homeless, I’m supposed to put up with them trashing my place and stealing from me. How the hell is that helping anybody? In fact, maybe it’s not about the Golden Rule. It’s about not being a doormat, a masochist. Not making oneself completely useless in a failed effort to help another. Check it out, the very next verse:
“Be merciful, as your father in heaven is merciful.” — Luke 6:36
Q. Is that what you were trying to do? Be merciful?
A. Yeah, but I forgot something. I’m one of the people I’m supposed to be merciful towards.
Q. So what about nobility?
A. The sense of nobility, of ideals — totally false. A sham. Nothing more than masochistic hypocrisy — if you can even imagine such a baffling combination.
Q. What would be more noble?
Q. How so?
A. I wanted them to be grateful. They were not. So I became bitter. But then I thought, well, if I want someone to be grateful, then I myself should be grateful. You know, Prayer of St. Francis.
Q. Refresh my memory?
A. If nothing else, it’s a great psychological tool. If I want to be understood, I should understand. If I want forgiveness, I should forgive. So if I want gratitude, I should be grateful.
Q. Grateful to whom?
A. To God. God gave me a nice secluded spot of my own after years of sleeping outdoors. I had only prayed for a “lock on a door, a window, and a power outlet.” God knew that was all I needed, and He gave me so much more than that.
Q. And how will you express this gratitude?
A. By being a good steward of this great blessing He has bestowed upon me. By making it my spiritual sanctuary, my place of my repose, and the place where I accomplish my creative work.
Q. Did the people you let stay with you keep you from doing this?
A. Yes. But I invited it. So I could have expected it. And now I’ve learned from it.
Q. What have you learned?
A. That there was a certain thousand dollars that didn’t come easy. And now it’s gone. I will never let anyone through that door again!
Q. Are you embittered?
A. Perhaps. But this too shall pass. Are you but a gadfly?
The Questioner is silent.
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