…and what are they thinking of you?

The following is an observation from Atreus, a homeless man who lived in various
shelters in and around Seattle. These musings come from a man who was crushed by violence and loss. His reflections and stories will give hope to those people supporting others in similar situations, living on the outskirts of society.
I often share this with students when they speak to me about their visits to shelters or having had conversations with people living rough on our streets.

****

“The other day a group of High School kids dropped by to deliver lunches and take a tour of our “city.”
I stepped away from the greeters, as I didn’t want to be in a position to be asked to lead the tour or share “my story” with any of them.
One of the younger guys stepped up and led them around the camp pointing out one or another thing of interest. Really, are rows of tents, a TV tent and a makeshift kitchen of interest? What they really wanted to know was what in hell were people doing hunkered down in tents in America!! Who and why are we?
When the group gathered around our community table to talk with a number of the residents I gave the slightest of signals to one of our patrons that I wanted no part of this particular interaction. He seems to be fairly intuitive as he picked up on my signal allowing me to stay seated rather than the obvious physical dodge and flight.
The young tour leader graduated from High School four years ago and told the kids it was methamphetamines that knocked him out of culinary school.  “I could see their eyes were beginning to open to the possibilities that they could be closer to our reality than they thought a few minutes ago.
A number of people sitting around the table began to open up to these kids.

I felt a cold horror beginning to work it’s way up my legs …
James, one of the campers, had been a shrimp fisherman down in the Gulf. He was totally wiped out by hurricane Katrina.  About 2000 were relocated to Seattle from the New Orleans area within weeks of the storm.  He lost everything including his two dogs. His upside is the huge check that is in the process of liberating him from our camp. He said he was heading up to Alaska. Good luck, James.
Claire, poor soul, has been lost in the Coney Island of her mind for years. Ferlinghetti wrote a great poem with that image in the title. Oh, well! A combination of abuse, few skills combined with booze and drugs has wizened her mind beyond repair.  She is cheerful and told the kids to stay in school and love God. Couldn’t have said it better myself “ if I had the ability to say anything.
Marvin, another camper, is a strange duck indeed. He speaks like a solicitor trying to outwit Rumpole. Hard to know if he’s just off, or, a genius taking a sabbatical. He told the kids some whopper about avoiding debt collectors who were unrelenting in their pursuit.
I guess he is nuts! Good for him.
Not many people left at the table to shelter me.  Time to go kiddies!
Fortunately, their person returned with the bus signaling them the visit was over.
Goodbyes, good lucks and see ya next summer were exchanged by all. Nice kids.
I don’t know what I think and feel? Am I jealous of their youth and potential or secure in my path with all its meanderings? Too many mysteries…”

 

Excerpt From: Michael Barrett Miller. “View from the Tent.” Lulu, 2014. iBooks. https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/view-from-the-tent/id814550891?mt=11

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