I returned to the Mission earlier this evening (August 19) for dinner. After parking a couple of blocks away I headed for the cafeteria. On the way I passed a man in a wheelchair accompanied by a tiny, tawny chihuahua. I started up the hill on the final approach to the cafeteria and stopped to turn toward the man who lagged behind now by about twenty feet. He labored to get up the steep hill, beads of sweat covering his bald head burned ruddy by the sun.
“Hey Bro, let me help you, ” I said and rushed behind him to push.
“It’s ok Brother, I do this every day,” he answered with resignation.
“That’s cool Bro, I’m gonna help you anyway.”
“Oh man, thank you Brother. It’s hard getting up this hill on my own. I do it. But it’s hard.” Immediately I noticed a shift in his tone, a little more spirit to it.
The handles were missing so I grabbed the stems at the top where the handles should have been. As I pushed, the chihuahua led the way in a scurry, glancing back every few seconds at its owner with bulging, nervous eyes. The man, who I noticed now had no legs, removed his dirty sports gloves. They were the kind baseball players or golfers wear. His hands were filthy, about as dirty as the gloves themselves.
We reached the building and I opened the door for him. He thanked me again as we went to the back of the long food line. About a hundred people stood on line, another hundred, at least, were already sitting and eating. I stood behind the wheelchair looking around the room, taking in every sound and sight. A number of these folks I see at the public library in Redding, a place I go to make sales appointments but primarily to escape the intense heat. Otherwise, I would prospect on foot if not for the heat.
(If you’re wondering, I sell services to small businesses as Business Funding Express. I can help small biz anywhere in the country. This is not a pitch, and yet it is.)
I saw Andrew and ran over to him excited to him. I placed a firm hand on his shoulder and said ‘Hey Bro!’. He returned the salutation with as much fervor.
I returned to stand behind the man in the wheelchair. Then I started talking to him. I forget how I started the conversation. Noticing his head angled sharply to look up at me when he spoke I got down on one knee so that I could be at his eye level.
“Bro, I’m Sariyd. What’s your name?”
“I’m Steve,” he answered and held out his fist for a fist-bump. I held out an open hand to him to grasp his.
“My hands are dirty, Brother.” And they were. When I say his hands were filthy, I mean blackened like chicken left way too long on the grill.
“It’s all good, Bro.” He then opened his hand which I grasped with both of mine. I wanted to be one with him, filth and all.
I continued, “You know, Steve, there is so much goodness and kindness among the folks here at the Mission. I love it, man. I mean, I’ve been shown so much love here from strangers I never met. It’s awesome Bro!”
”Yeah, man, the people here are down to earth….a lot of good hearts here. There’s goodness everywhere Brother. I feel blessed to be here. I mean, you got your bad ones, too, don’t get me wrong. But that’s everywhere. You got your good and bad everywhere. Doesn’t matter where you go, doesn’t matter if you’re white or black or whatever. There’s good and bad wherever you go.”
As the line moved along we shuffled forward foot by foot, me on one knee and him with none. We kept on about the goodness and kindness that is everywhere if you open your heart to it. Then we talked about my situation and what brought me to this point. I didn’t tell him every detail, of course, just the cliff notes. That I’ve been living in my car since May of this year after my wife and I separated.
He remarked that I looked ‘good’, ‘healthy’, ‘clean’.
“You don’t look homeless”, he said, “and you seem in good spirits.”
“Spirit keeps me together, Bro. I really just miss my two boys and they miss me. I’m re-building my life, Bro. I’m determined to make it and to be reunited with my sons so I can be in their lives and have them in mine. But other than that, I’m good. I’m at peace. In fact, except for not being with my sons, I feel more at peace now than I have for years. I have my moments….it can get hard at times….”
I then caught myself. Shit, man, this brother has no legs and is living on the streets. How can I say that it gets hard for me!?
“That’s beautiful, Brother, I love that. Be with your boys as soon as you can. How old are they?”
“Five and three.”
“Oh man!” he exclaimed, clutching at his heart. “They’re babies! Do you and the wife get along?”
“Not at all, Bro. Not at all. The only thing connecting us is the boys. We just seem to bring out the worst in each other.”
“Well, it happens, Bro. Maybe you two will work it out again and be back together. You never know.”
“That would be great. You never know. But I don’t see that happening unless we both are willing to forgive and to work on ourselves. It can’t work and it won’t ever work otherwise.”
We fell silent for a minute and the space between us and the guy in front of us grew by about six or seven feet so engrossed we were in the conversation. Two guys behind us skipped ahead of us. I wanted to say something but didn’t. Steve did, though.
“Hey, don’t leave me behind, Brother!”
One of the guys turned to him saying that he thought he, Steve, was ‘stuck’. I wanted to say, “You thought he was stuck so you just skipped ahead of him instead of checking on him!!??” I felt the South Bronx rising up in me and I wanted to kick his ass for a moment. Seriously. So I said nothing and let Steve handle it.
Grace spoke through Steve, “It’s ok Bro. I know you’re hungry.” I felt rebuked within, and inspired at the same time.
“Bro, what happened to your legs? How’d you lose your legs?” and with that question I took a square look at them. They were mere stumps cut off at mid thigh. And whatever thigh remained was not much due to severe atrophy.
“Oh man, believe it or not, it’s an old Irish thing. Very few get it, and I think I’m one of the last ones to get it. It’s something where you lose your legs ’cause the circulation goes bad. Deep vein thrombosis. The doctor said it’s an ancient Celtic thing ’cause the ancient Celts were cannibals.”
“Bro, are you serious!!??” I asked rhetorically. “I’ve never heard of that!”
“Anyone else in you family have it?
“Nope. I’m the only one. And you know, the family don’t care at all. In fact, they treat me like there’s something wrong with me. There’s nothing wrong with me! I’m missing my legs but God gave me my heart, my mind, and my body is still good! I think I got this because God knew I was strong enough to handle this. And you know what, Bro? I am so happy, so blessed. I have a beautiful life, Brother. I’m alive, I can feed my dog every day. I just share my food with her and we both eat and we don’t go hungry. I get to see the sun every day. I see children run and play and laugh. And when they run I run; when they play it’s like I’m playing with them. You know? God is good Brother!”
I couldn’t answer. I had no words to say. I thought of the ‘spirituality’ I’ve ‘practiced’ (what the hell does that mean anyway!!?? – ‘practicing spirituality’ – it’s time to stop ‘playing’ God and it’s time to BE GOD!) and I wondered about myself.
I looked into Steve’s Irish blue eyes and his eyes became my eyes. We looked deeply into one another, as one another….and we smiled. We know.
I thought of the spiritual circles in which I have been blessed to be a part of, through participation and observation, over the past few decades of my life on Earth and all of it crumbled under the mighty sway of Steve’s spirit and humility. This man professed nothing – no ‘abundance’, no Pachamama, no Abraham, no metaphysics, no Jesus, no Yahshua, no Law, no Torah, no Bible or Koran or holy book of any kind, no name of God, no identity, no bullshit, shallow fluff that the ‘enlightened’ or the ‘elect’ in Mt Shasta or Missouri or in this ministry or in that church profess. Nope. He was just Creator in disguise as Steve, being Steve.
Now, to be fair, I’ve met plenty of souls, sincere and earnest, whose expression of belief, creed, and ‘spirituality’ I believe to be….well, sincere. But, I wondered, is it all authentic? Is it all the spontaneous expression of being, such as what children untainted by the pretenses and constructs of the modern mind exhibit in their pure ebullience and embodiment of being without conscious thought. Or is it all just a mere parroting of some shit we heard or read or even felt…..but are not.
I ask myself, how real am I?? Am I feeling, thinking, repeating, hiding?
Or am I being?? Cause being doesn’t need to say a single solitary word to profess; doesn’t need to know; doesn’t need to ask; doesn’t need to discover; being doesn’t need context because it does not seek to be understood. It doesn’t need to understand because it is understanding in expression without understanding. Being is not defined by time, past, future; not defined by conditions nor circumstances; not defined nor even altered by knowledge for it is knowing in expression through being. It cannot be coaxed or coerced into doing other than what it does nor into being other than what it is. In being there is not even why.
Being doesn’t need defining because it occurs as it does to the observer, never careful for its own doing because it is merely possibility in expression, always beyond the reach of scrutiny, inquiry, and qualification. Even reflection ceases because in being there is no other.
In being there is only the One.
And Steve, he doesn’t get it. No. No need to.
Steve is it!