I received an early birthday present from a source that I didn’t expect.
To be honest, I haven’t been incredibly successful with meeting people here in Boston – mostly because I live in a part of the city that really isn’t residential. In fact, you can lump a majority people I know here into one of two categories: on my realty team (which is a bigger team than you think) and homeless.
Yeah … homeless … and before you feel good for me, don’t – experience from Anchorage’s homeless community has me a little skittish to help (let alone talk) to them. Auggie has a lot of credit for being open to meeting some of Boston’s homeless crowd – he just doesn’t care who you are, if you scratch his belly he will love you. Then if you have a routine (like my daily trip to Dunkin Donuts), you will run into the homeless folks that have a routine as well.
Yesterday, I took the pup outside for his afternoon “constitutional” he saw someone walking by jumped up like it was an old friend. The man stopped, and started off saying something that just grabbed my attention. He said: “Man oh man, what’s it like to be you.” I thought it was just a play on my emotions really. A guy trying to get a few bucks by making me feel guilty. So when I pushed it off he followed it up more directly. He said: “Here you are, a guy who lives here so he does really well for himself. Yet he isn’t afraid to talk to me.” Once again, I tried to downplay his comments. It was of course the dog that reached out to him, and not me. That’s when the conversation changed.
He introduced himself as Eddy, and was a self proclaimed ‘former Fire Fighter, but current homeless hungry black man’. He wasn’t all that disheveled, but the longer I talked to him I could tell his button down shirt could use a wash, but his pants fit him better than mine fit me. He didn’t smell of anything, like booze or drugs, and frankly didn’t look like he was on anything. I don’t know how Eddy found himself on the streets, and he told me a couple times he wouldn’t tell me, but there he was – a man who seemingly wanted to be me, even against my own opinion.
Eddy said that most people don’t even take the time to talk to him. It’s his opinion that it is a special person that does, that looks past someone’s standing to just stop and say hi. He went on to ask about me, but it was based on what he believed about me to begin with — specifically that to be living here I need to be doing pretty well for myself. Also, if I was doing pretty well for myself, I had to be good at what I do. I had to be smart, I had to work hard. He felt that just because I lived in an apartment in Boston Downtown, it made me good. When I tried to downplay it he laughed. “Praise Jesus,” he laughed, “here is what you need to do. You talk to you boss and you say ‘Eddy Says I need a Raise.'” He backed down a little when I told him I hadn’t been on the job for a month yet, but his point was made.
That’s about when he laid in on my for my whole attitude. He asked who my sweetheart was, who did I have to go home to. I told him all I had was the pup. “Let me guess,” Eddy said, “its because you don’t think you are good enough. It’s because you don’t think that they would talk to you is it? Well do this. Next time you see a pretty girl you think you would like to talk to you go up to her and you say: ‘Eddy said I needed to talk to you’ then you see what happens. Praise Jesus.”
Of course, during the course of our 20 minute conversation, he told me some things about himself and some things he needs to do to get by. Yet when I would ask him something more, he would turn it back to me. He wanted to keep turning it back to me, he wanted to keep showing me why in his mind it would be great to be me. While he did, he kept praising Jesus – and it reminded me of some time I spent at a bible study recently where I walked away with the task of asking myself “What Did God See In Me?” It almost felt like Eddy was doing just that.
As our conversion continued, he got back to what he thought was the heart of what he thought was the source of it all: “What you need to do is to talk to your parents. You say to your mom and dad: ‘Eddy Says Congratulations’. You tell them that.”
I guess in the moment, I really didn’t need to have anyone say anything to make me feel better about myself. In hindsight, it feels kind of uncomfortable to know that I feel better about myself from a conversation with a homeless man, but every time time I think about his words I can hear him saying to me “Tell yourself, ‘Eddy wants you to believe in yourself.'”
He told me I didn’t owe him anything. He said some folk will buy him a sandwich. I really didn’t have time to go into a place and get him one, so instead I grabbed my annual gift from my parents and gave it to him. It’s going to get him a couple meals, and based on what he told me is enough to slip to a concierge somewhere to get a free bed in a hotel during a cold night. I prey his luck changes, or whatever put where he is turns for the better. In the meantime I can’t help to think that whatever I return to him isn’t half of what I got back from him.
It all had a big tie back to one of my favorite movies, The Fisher King. Ironically, it centers on a fellow who is helped by a homeless man, who he in turn helps as well. It’s based on a mythical story where a young king injures himself in a quest for the Holy Grail. When the king grows old and frail, after years of searching for the grail, he is saved when a fool comes to his side takes water from a nearby cup and feeds it to the king. The cup turned out to actually be the Holy Grail. When the king asked how did the fool find what all his greatest men could not, the fool replied: “I don’t know about any Grail, I only knew you were thirsty.” It felt like talking to Eddy was just that.