A Cup Called Hope

The homeless man clutched within his sun bleached hand a yellowed photo of a woman who might have been his mother.

His entire worldly possessions lay near his battered shoes. His past, his present, perhaps his future. A tattered journal’s pages rustled in the wind, speaking memories of days long past. A small bag of faded clothing, a frayed sleeping bag. A barren coffee cup, which might have once held hope.

I watch the front doors of the shelter swing open. The drab building stands in stark contrast against the amber sun, as it slips silently into twilight. The homeless filter in, as they had done the day before, the week before, the month before.

I step into the concrete building where the nations’ forgotten hoped for a hot meal, and a good nights sleep. My gaze falls on men and women as they quietly line up to take their supper. No words were spoken. Perhaps, there was no need.

An elderly man, and a middle-aged woman stood near. A cloak of sadness suddenly overwhelmed me, as I gazed into their stoic faces. The gentle mist in the woman’s kind eye, as she thought of her long lost daughter. A worry line etched across the gentleman’s brow, becoming a living roadmap of his once content existence.

So many people swept under the rug of society. So many who once had hopes and dreams and families, like you or I. So many whisked away into a dark corner of the city. Too many.

They lined up in robotic silence in the cafeteria, and methodically took their trays. The only sound to be heard was the whisk of the plastic moving across the metal bars in front of the food counter. Volunteers dropped spoonfuls of gruel onto the plates, as each quietly passed by.

One by one, they took a seat. The hushed atmosphere was unlike any cafeteria I’d ever found a meal in; many a schoolteacher might trade her very degree to behold such order and respect each had for one another.

I glanced down the darkened hall near me. Row after row of the homeless lay upon their blankets, the only thing shielding them from the unforgiving concrete floor, and from the world.

A gymnasium brimming to almost overflow of mothers and dads and even sons and daughters. Bursting at the seams with uncles and aunts, and maybe even a forgotten friend or two.

I taste a salty tear as I attempt in vain to nonchalantly stroll amongst the forgotten, amongst the down trodden.

I wanted to be one with them. I wanted to feel in my heart, to the deepest crevices of my soul, what it meant to have nothing. No home, no job, no love. No medical care, no vehicle, not even a toothbrush to call their own. And, worst of all, no smile to greet them when the great wings of the morning awaken them to their daily plight.

I carefully studied their sleeping faces, searching for my father who had disappeared in the night the week before. Row after row my gaze fell upon, as I struggled to comprehend why so many people had no where to call home.

Some had pillows over their heads as they slept. Others tossed and turned, trying desperately to find comfort which didn’t exist in a place like this. Nor, would comfort come when they were turned back into the city at sunrise. Comfort was not something that was a part of their existence. Comfort only came in the form of a blanket and pillow and warm meal within the shelter, come nightfall.

I whisper a silent prayer as I quietly slip away into the moonlight. As I make my way back home, I realize the search for my father had, in essence, opened my eyes to the world around me. Perhaps a divine force had driven me to seek him out in the homeless shelter. For now, I see with clarity that the homeless are one of us. They could be your old friend. They might have been your minister, or your co-worker. They might have been a hero on a battlefield. They might even be your dad.

My father was not amongst them, but would be found safe soon thereafter. He was the lucky one. He had someone to come home to.

The homeless did not ask to be where they are. They were not born homeless. They walk amongst us, hoping for another chance to prove themselves. Hoping to find acceptance, and most importantly, to find one person, only one, who cares. That is all they ask. To once and for all throw that cloak of obscurity aside, and walk with pride within society, as they once did.

Today, I have tasted the tears of humility. But, I will be back. I will let them know there is a greater force above who smiles down on them. That one day they too will once again fly on the wings of the morning. I will be that smiling face on the other side of the food counter, where together, we will drink from that cup called hope.

“Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”

– Isaiah 58:7

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