Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Easter with James

Easter update with James, my homeless friend...while some of us celebrate Easter with ham and fixins, James had another meal in mind. Rather, this is how it evolved. Resurrection also came to the fore.

James, can I get you anything from the grocery store? I was going to buy you a hot roasted chicken...
Well, I would really prefer some cottage cheese.
Great, will do.
Small curd, please, Jerseymaid.
(I curtsey) Order received and I'll be back in a few minutes. It's Easter, and I would like to offer you either a night in a motel, or a gift certificate for (his favorite burrito place).
Well, I would like the gift certificate; that would be great. It's already 3 hours past the motel's check-in time, so I have lost that time.
(I return with cottage cheese, a hot roasted chicken, and his favorite potato salad.)
Well, James, there wasn't Jerseymaid, so you will have to settle for Knudsen.
(James smiles with krinkly eyes. He knows I am playing with him.)
And here are a few more things to eat. I have put money in your account at (local coffee shop), so you can get an Easter meal there [note: James does not like to go to social services facilities such as Salvation Army, as he does not like the crowds].
Oh. Well. [contemplates all the food] Can I change my mind?
About what?
Well, I would like to have the motel room.
Oh, sure. I'll go check you in. [We make plans so I can find him after I get the key.]
(Important contextual note: The day before, I had found a letter written by my mother's best friend, describing my mother's suddenly being stricken with a fatal brain aneurism in 1971. I am raw from reading that, the words swirling just one layer below consciousness. My mother's compadre described my mom's transfer from Coronado Hospital to Mercy Hospital in San Diego, where my mom died.)
Motel clerk ( from India): Oh, yes, I remember you, you want a room for the homeless man.
Me: Yes.
Motel clerk: Why do you do this? Why do you do this for this man? Is he a relative?
Me: No. He's just a homeless man I know.
Motel clerk: But do you work for some agency?
Me: No, he is my friend.
Motel clerk: I know why you do this. Mer-cy. Mer-cy is why you do this.
Me: (the word mer-cy resonates, is searing) Yes...mercy.
It was a good Easter.


Happy Cottage Quilter said...

Pamela, I am so fascinated with this post. How did you meet James? How long have you been interacting with him?? There is a homeless man that I have seen for weeks (maybe months) who is living in his car. I noticed him again and again as I drive by. I've never stopped, but I did see him talking with a man once. Other then that he just sits in his car all day long. He is parked across from a convenience store so I imagine he uses their facilities and maybe buys a candy bar. You have shown such kindness to James. Is there anything that can be done for people like this, to help them back into society??

Mego said...

You are absolutely the very best! I love this. The kids and I spent Easter morning delivering goodies to the tent cities that spring up in town. We have done it for years. It is more for us but the people (many young people) are appreciative. But oh my. Mer-cy. Yes.

Pamela Price Klebaum said...

Three years ago, SAQA had an exhibit on homelessness, and I met James when I worked on my piece. I asked his permission to photograph him, and we gradually built up trust, and then a friendship. What has struck me over these three years is his sense of self and his appreciation for what he has, as opposed to what he does not have. His trust in me has grown in increments. He has a great sense of humor about his situation in life, and that is an undercurrent in our conversations (I once asked him if he wanted a new shirt, and he said, "Yes, blue." I said he was a little pushy, being that he was homeless and all -- and I knew he would "get" that humor, and laugh. He never asks for anything. Last week he was listening to his little radio, and he talked to me about the economic situation in Cyprus. Our interaction is just little slices of conversation, always rich, and there is such a sweetness there. I don't know what you can do about the person you see in the car. James has warned me about many of the homeless people around him, that they are dangerous. I don't think James wants to be back in society. He certainly would like to have a roof over his head, but at some point, he was terribly damaged. All I know is, it's been a real delight to have him in my life.

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