Street Stories

Weblog of Seattle minister to the homeless Rick Reynolds, Operation Nightwatch

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Location: Seattle, Washington, United States

Caring for human beings seems like the best use of my time, homeless or not.

Friday, July 24, 2015

I didn't look

I didn't look.
Stopped at the end of the freeway ramp, 
on my way,
I didn't look at the person
standing by the side of the road 
with a sign.

I didn't see him, not at all.
Not looking is second nature these days,
when someone is asking for help by the side of the road.
And so, I did not look.
No need for the shrug, the nod, the single index finger lifted off the steering wheel
or the wan half-smile of acknowledgment, lips pursed.

But dang, that red light was a long one,
and finally, I looked.
It was a real human being. "Hey, I know that guy!"
I rolled down my window. We shook hands.
"I hope you don't think less of me for doing this," he said, ashamed.
   "Not at all, bro," I assure him.
Red light turns green, and I go on, circumspect.
How could I not see him? My homeless friend.
I just didn't look. Shame on me.

Friday, July 17, 2015

First glance

There's always some suspicion when we go visit folks on the street. "Are you a cop?" was the most common question I faced - when I was young. Funny, they don't ask me that now. Must be the paunch and the gray hair.

Some nuts are just harder to crack.

"K" has been around in the homeless community for years. We helped him at Nightwatch, and I've seen him literally hundreds of times at various other places we visit. Usually we get a nod out of him, or he says a few words. "Thanks for the pizza."

A few weeks ago he especially voluble, for him. He got out of his spot in the corner, where he sits, reading. He actually came and got some pizza from us while we were still at the shelter. (He usually waits until we're gone.) But this week, amazingly, he stood at the counter, looking at me.

"I didn't know you were a minister," he said.

After five years and hundreds of encounters, it finally registered.

Low-impact care. It's what we do.