My friend, Billy.
I learned as much about the streets from one month of talking to Billy as I learned in the previous decade. This is a man who knows his way around. But, look carefully. Because Billy knows something else. Something that still baffles me. He knows how to have hope, even in hopelessness.
Billy has no family, no friends that he trusts, only one leg, and extremely poor vision. His hands are calloused and unstable. He gets health care from the VA when he can get there. He experiences hunger and thirst every single day. He told me that. Billy has no skills, though he used to be able to read and write back when he could see. He can't get up without help. He relies on the goodness of strangers for that.
It makes you want to bury your face on the table and weep, doesn't it?
Well, don't be so quick to weep because Billy does have a few things. He has hope, for one thing. I'm not talking about hope of a nice home, or even a nice meal. Billy has hope of the resurrection. He told me this in one of our first meetings and totally without prodding. Really. This man on the streets is hoping in the resurrection. He didn't see it but I just about burst in to tears when he said that. Don't know why, really. But, I felt this statement of his somewhere deep, in the core.
And there's something else. Billy has a calling. He doesn't call it that, I do. But that's what it is. Billy gives a blessing to almost everyone he encounters. "God bless you, and God bless your kin," he says. "God bless you, and God help you do good." Billy told me he offers people a blessing because it's the only thing he can do. I told him it was the most important thing I could think of, and Billy pointed down Pearl Street, toward Wall Street and said, "What about all that?" "I think you might be richer than all that," I said. Billy laughed. He knows.... Billy knows.
I am wondering how I can ever be as convinced of my own worth as Billy is convinced of his. I am wondering how, in my affluence, I can find a little hope. How does hope happen? Because I don't know. I wish I did, but I don't. I am wondering if I can ever be as rich as Billy.
It's raining here in Texas. And, all I can think to hope for my friend is that he is warm, or cool, and dry, and safe, that he has eaten. But, most of all, I hope he is still giving blessings and offering hope to a world baffled by his riches.
Wray, William. Sayings and Tales of Zen Buddhism, Reflections for Every Day. 1. Edison, NJ: Chartwell Books, 2006. Print.