I'm still (still?!) pulling my talks together for the retreat I will be leading in Boston; this stage allows me to carry my papers to the park to work in the great outdoors. Today, as usual, I was approached by a needy person. "All I have with me is my work," I told him. The man, about sixty, clean (if not neat), looked down sadly and continued his quest, working his way down the promenade of the $450,000,000 venue.
But it was hard to turn my mind back to editing with that poor man's face still in my memory. I kept praying that someone with the means would give him a real helping hand, that he would get what he needed. About a half hour later, the man approached me again. "Sister, you must have been praying for me," he said.
His name is Kim. He is mentally ill. His mom took care of him until her death 20 years ago, and now he tries (and almost manages) to take care of himself. And he was a singer; had hoped to make his living singing in clubs, until he lost most of his range from vocal nodules. And lost his mom, his one true advocate. Sang a few lines of "Silent Night" (the only religious song he knows) to demonstrate that, yes, he truly had a lovely vocal quality.
I told him I sing, too. "Watch your voice," he warned. "Don't strain it with too much talking." (Oh, great: I'm preparing 7 days' worth of conferences right now.)
Next time I bring my work outside, I'm taking an extra sandwich. Maybe I'll see Kim. Or maybe someone else.