22 November 2012

Lessons From Bob

This is Bob and I in January of 2013.
 I hadn't seen him in 6 weeks because I now take
the bus.  We had a lot to catch up on.
If you know me, you know that I have a soft spot for the homeless.  My parents were always very compassionate when it came to feeding the hungry in our community.  We grew up in Los Angeles.  In those days, it wasn’t uncommon for people to knock on your door and ask for food if they were down and out.  I remember being afraid of them as my mom would answer the door, but she would ask them to wait on the porch and she’d make them a sandwich to eat there and then pack one in the bag for later, and take it to them, telling them they could sit and eat on the porch before heading on their way.  They would thank her, eat and move on.  My father and I would deliver Christmas and Easter dinners to the homeless of our neighborhood before our family arrived at our house for dinner, my mom always making enough turkey, pilaf and sarma for several extra plates.  There weren’t to many then, in the 70’s, and because of that we knew where we could find them…one on a bus bench on Vine, one behind the Ralph’s market, one by the laundry mat.  We grew up that way, not fearing the homeless.
Four years ago, our In His Shoes outreach started a homeless ministry where we feed and clothe the homeless on a monthly basis.  It’s no longer the 70’s, and the homeless community is large, especially in downtown.  It’s so easy for us to walk by someone in need.  Would we do that if we saw Christ asking for food or money on the corner?  Of course not.  We would definitely acknowledge Him, right?  So a few years ago, I started talking to the homeless that I see on a daily basis – just making eye contact, saying hello, asking their names.  I work in downtown on 7th and Figueroa.  It’s not skid row.  I’m in the cleaned-up financial district.  But there are still homeless around.  The regulars.  And I know all their names.  There’s Antonio that asks for money on freeway offramp, Anthony who is on 8th and Francisco, and then there’s my friend Bob.
Bob and I have been friends for about two years now. We’re the same age…he’s just a month older than me.  He’d be tall if he stood up, but he’s had a leg amputated, and sits in his wheelchair on Figueroa.  And pretty much 5 days a week, as I walk to my car in the afternoon, we talk.  I realized this yesterday, that I talk to Bob sometimes more than I talk to some of my family.  To Bob, the passersby are his family.  I can’t help Bob everyday, but what I can do is talk to him.  And over the course of two years or so, Bob has taught me a lot about life, faith, family, and about caring for others.
I wanted to share with you my lessons from Bob.
1.  "I don’t live by luck, I live by faith."  This was what Bob told me yesterday when he wanted to give me a coin that someone had dropped in his cup.  It was a penny with a hole stamped out of the middle in the shape of a four-leaf clover. He wanted me to have it.  He said it’s kind of neat…and maybe one of my nieces would like it.  When I asked, “Don’t you want it? It’s a lucky penny?”  He said, “No, I want you to have it…it’s just something that’s neat to look at…plus, I don’t live by luck, I live by faith. God is with me.  I don’t need luck”  This was a very beautiful revelation to me.  He is so rich in his faith, and has ever reason to doubt it.  But he doesn't.  His expression of faith is beautiful.
2.  Be cheerful in attitude and smile.  As you pass Bob you hear him, “It’s a beautiful day in L.A.!”  He greets people as they pass by, sharing sports stats from last night’s game with those that he knows follow sports, asking about family to others, commenting on the positive “Your hair looks nice today!”  Most of the time, if people do acknowledge him, it’s with a smile, or some money.  Everyone has a purpose in life, and I think this is Bob’s.  Bob is life’s greeter.
3. Call your mother.  Bob has a phone which he uses to call his mom in Pennsylvania.  She’s in her late 80’s.  He has a family there who he says doesn’t understand him so he doesn't have contact with them, but he does keep in touch with his mom.  He’s shared letters she’s sent him (to a local shopkeeper’s address) and he gets a little tear in his eye when he shares stories about her with me.  As far away as they are, she is and always will be in his heart. 
4.  Know what you need (don't be greedy), and share the rest with those around you.  Find beauty in all things.  “Anush, I have something for you…wait” and he digs in the back of his wheelchair and produces a wooden box.  One of Bob’s friends went to Alaska and brought him back a piece of salmon.  The box was painted with an Alaskan whale – the art of the region.  He ate the salmon, but he wanted me to have the box.  He made me promise to put something nice in it…and today it houses some of my jewelry supplies.  “Isn’t it beautiful?  Do you like it?  I want you to have it. But you have to use it.  If you're not going to use it, don't take it.”  : ) 
5.  There’s joy in the routine.  Every Tuesday is Popeye’s chicken day for Bob.  This is the highlight of the week, and as routine as it is, it’s looked forward to.  I think everyone that helps Bob along on Mondays and Tuesdays knows that he gets two pieces for a dollar on Tuesdays.  And this makes him happy.  As mundane as it may seem, there is joy in this routine.  It’s something to look forward too. And something that he is very thankful for.  When your life situation is uncertain, there is comfort in the security of routine.
6.  Make time for yourself.  Sometimes on Wednesday’s Bob is not in his spot.  I noticed this pattern and asked him once.  “You know, I did well on Monday and Tuesday and I don’t want to be greedy.  I went to Popeye's and got a bunch of chicken.  I went under the freeway and ate, and slept, and then woke up and ate some more…and I spent yesterday relaxing because I need a break too.”  Truth.  It’s important to take time to refresh. 
Simple life lessons.  Things that we actually know but don’t often practice because they just seem too simple.  Sometimes what we receive is so much more than what we give.  My life is so much richer by having Bob in it. 


Suzie said...

Beautiful post Anush! The simple things in life are best :) Happy Thanksgiving!

Bacheegs and Love said...

What a great post mama - you're always such an inspiration!! I love you! xoxo