My Brother Jack
He’s turning 60 but his weathered face and stooped stature would lead one to believe he is much older. I first heard about Jack when I moved into an apartment in the trendy Victorian part of town. He had just gotten out of the hospital after some teenagers had severally beaten this homeless man. Soon after, my companion and I went shopping and I noticed a big bundle of thick socks made it’s way into our cart. I was quick to tell her that those were not the kind of socks I wore. She retorted, “they’re not for you.” Earlier in the day I had told her about this incident and she took it upon herself to call one of the homeless centers and inquire as to what homeless souls needed most. It was winter and without hesitation she was told, socks. So, I asked the tenants on my floor to knock at my door should Jack pass by our building and the socks were at-the-ready on the couch near my door. A few days later I was told he was outside but it wasn’t Jack but rather a tall younger man out there. He received the socks.
Later that day my oldest grandson came to visit his ‘Papa’. I recounted the sock story and he, always the comedian, said “Watch, that man will go back downtown tonight and tell all his buddies and tomorrow you will have a parade of homeless people and their carts lined up outside waiting for socks!”
I started to visit with Jack regularly outside my building and although he is quite hard to understand, I quickly learned he is a proud man. His ‘job’ is hauling around two tethered shopping carts usually overflowing with cans, bottles and metal objects which he cashes in for food and cigarettes. I can always count on bringing him a warmed muffin on recycling day. Thing is, he will not accept one if he is not hungry and he always reaches into his tattered change purse to pay for it when he is. I simply place my hand over my heart and smile and he always returns his toothless smile and says a heartfelt thank you. Sadly though, I learned Jack sleeps outdoors.
My companion and I run into him often at the two markets in my neighborhood. On one occasion, we saw the taller man sitting up against a wall and we brought him some bakery-made butter tarts. No sooner had we received his thank you Jack appeared and in unison she and I without a word turned around and headed back to the bakery to buy tarts for our Jack. As a result of our recent encounters with a few of the too-many homeless in our city she and I make weekly stops at the homeless center she called with the grocery items they are in need of at the time.
During my most recent visit with Jack I discovered he was born in Albania and hadn’t been home in 20 years. He explained he had a rich cousin there who he sometimes spoke with. When I asked him if he had a phone he replied he did but another homeless man stole it from him and tried to sell it back to him for a hundred bucks. This, of course, broke this empaths heart. Then, out of the blue, he looks me right in the eye and blurts out…
“You are not just like a friend but like a brother.”
I stood out there with him for a few more minutes, a puddle to be truthful, and so very grateful. And I couldn’t help but wonder on this bitter, polar vortex day if Jack would be warm that night.
I am indeed Jack’s brother. And he is mine. What I know to be true is that we are all connected to each other in this world and what a different world it would be if we’d just start focusing on how much more alike we are, than different. And a personal quotation of mine came to mind, “The single thing in short supply in this world that would replenish all other things in short supply, is Vision.”
Mother Teresa perhaps said it best: “We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked, and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.”
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