The View from the Streets

My son, the minimalist, called several weeks ago and the conversation went something like this.

“Hi, Mom. How are you and Dad doing? How’s Grandma?”

“We’re doing fine,” I replied. “What’s up with you?”

“Oh, not much,” he casually offered. “Craig and I are going to be homeless next week. What do you hear from Laura?”

“She’s doing OK. Working har………What?” My brain put the brakes on. “What do you mean, ‘homeless’?”

“Well, I mean homeless, you know…living on the streets. Nothing to worry about,” he nervously laughed.

I know this laugh. I’ve heard it before, usually right before he tells us things like he’s going to drive cross country by himself in a high-mileage car…or he’s going to live in the slums of SE Asia somewhere for a month….or he wants to learn to sky-dive.

“And would you like to tell me WHY you are going to be homeless next week?,” I probe.

“Well, Craig and I have been praying about this and we think it would be a good thing to voluntarily be homeless for one week and really see how the homeless live, what resources are available for them. It will help us build relationships with them to help minister to them later.”

“Mother Teresa didn’t go out and get AIDS so she could minister to AIDS victims in India,” I point out.

“Did you ever hear of Father Damien?” he asks.

“Does a doctor have to have the disease in order to treat the sickness?” I counter. “Even Jesus slept at the homes of friends.”

On his birthday, I couldn’t help but wonder how he was going to celebrate. In my mind I pictured him pulling his birthday meal out of a dumpster. It was not a pleasant thought. Nor was it pleasant to realize that there are many mothers’ sons and daughters who might be doing just that on their birthdays in slums around the world. The week dragged on with occasional emails from him when he’d get to a library computer.

Finally the week was up and we got another call.

“Hey, I survived,” he announced.

“Are you OK,” I asked. “You sound a little hoarse.”

“Yeah….talk about irony, though. I was fine living on the streets but once I got back into a house, I got sick,” he remarked.

The boy needed a review of the life of germs and the course of an illness which I started to give him but then I decided, “what’s the use?”

“So, any other special challenges while you were living homeless last week?

“Well,” he drawled, “we did discover that grassy parks are not good places to sleep.”

“Why? Did you get bit by a tick?” I asked.

“No, but just as we had laid down our pieces of cardboard and had settled down on them to sleep, we heard this ‘swishing’ sound and suddenly realized that some automatic sprinklers had begun watering the grass. Our cardboard was ruined…..just soaked!” he ruefully laughed.

I thought back to 25 years ago, when I’d stick my head in his nursery to make sure that he was warm, dry, and fed. Don’t all mothers wish this for their children?

“I’m glad you’re home, Son,” I whisper as I send up a prayer for those who don’t have a roof over their heads.


One Response

  1. Hi Mom,
    Thanks for writing this. It was good to read your perspective. Love ya! p.s. Have you watched that Father Damien movie yet?

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