08 December 2011

Conversations about Underwear on Figueroa

About a month or so ago, I was heading toward my car on Figueroa after finishing up at work.  As usual, Bob was in his spot, sitting in his wheelchair, he greeted the passers-by with "Your hair looks nice," "What a game last night, huh?", and "I like your earrings."  I would say about 50% don't even make eye contact.  That's pretty good considering most homeless people on the street.  Bob is different.  He's likeable.  Very even tempered, and very complimentary.  That's his schtick.  That's Bob.  On that day, he was asking someone if they had seen Puss n' Boots.  He said that he thought it was a funny film and recommended that this man take his son to see the film.  "My son is 18.  He's not going to sit through Puss n' Boots."  To which Bob replied, "Well, I'm going to be 53, and I sat through it...and really liked it!"  At that time, I was approaching, and he starting asking me if I had seen the movie.  I told him I hadn't, but asked him when his upcoming birthday was having overheard his conversation.

"December 7!  I was born on Pearl Harbor Day,1958."  So I remembered.  For the past 6 weeks or so, every once in a while Bob would mention that he had an upcoming birthday, to which I'd say, "I know. Pearl Harbor Day, 1958."  Everytime I say this, Bob says, "Aw, ma'am...you remembered my birthday."  I've told Bob my name, but he calls me "ma'am" which I would hate from anyone else, but from Bob, it's okay. 

So yesterday as I passed Bob, I asked him what he needed for his birthday.  "Aw, ma'am, you remembered!...Well, I could use some pants, but I know a couple people that said they would get me some."  I asked about food thinking I could get him a gift card to Corner Bakery (I know he likes their chili).    But he said, "no, I have enough food...I get so much from people going by that sometimes I have to give it away."  So that was out.  Then he said, "Ma'am?  I could actually use some underwear though."  I said okay, happy to have a definite gift idea.  And then there I was.  On Figueroa, discussing underwear with Bob.  What kind?  Boxers?  Tighty whiteys?  What size?  And it struck me as funny as I was walking away because I was having this conversation about something somewhat intimate with Bob who is just really an acquaintance...but an acquaintance in need of underwear.  That evening, in Costco, I told my husband that I was picking up underwear for Bob.  "Who's Bob?" he asked.  "Bob, my friend in the wheelchair."  "Oh, okay."  Neddy know I have a soft spot for the homeless.    

Bob is 53 today.  It's Pearl Harbor day.  He has a long gray beard, long gray hair tied back in a pony tail.  He has one leg and sits in a wheelchair with all his belongings tied to it.   He has soft green eyes, and would actually be a handsome man if he wasn't so unkempt.  He's about the most positive man I've met.  Despite the adversity, he sits there every day as the world walks by, talking to whomever will carry a conversation with him.  When I ask, "How are you today, Bob."  He says, "Keepin' positive!  God is good."  He has every  reason to think the opposite.  Just last week when it got to be so chilly, I asked him where he goes at night.  He said that last night he spent the night on the floor of his friend's bathroom, and in his positive way said, "but it was indoors and out of the cold!"  That's how Bob is.  Always positive.

As I approached him today, he was talking to another homeless man who was standing close by.    I watched as Bob counted out money from his cup and gave it to the man.   The man looked at me and said, "I'm hungry and just need some money for food...for a burrito."  Bob was sharing his money with him, and I gave him the rest.  I've seen this many times before on our homeless outreach.  The sense of community and belonging of the homeless toward one another.  After the man had left, I handed Bob the bag with his gift.  I had wrapped his underwear six-pack in colorful paper and added a card.  Bob looked inside the bag.  "Aw ma'am, you remembered my birthday...and you even wrapped my present...and there's a card too?  And you always remember my name.  I appreciate that, ma'am, that you know my name." 

Makes you think, doesn't it?    The little things are what matter.  To someone who is "invisible" to the general populace, having someone know/remember your name is a big deal.  Having someone even acknowledge your presence is special.  And I suppose having them remember your birthday is just icing on the cake! 

Happy Birthday Bob.  May your life be filled with the beauty that you so easily see in all of us!

1 comment:

BePeace said...

This brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for the beauty you project into the world.