This latest offering in the secondhand series comes from Susan, a fellow poetic-minded soul who shares her thoughts online at If You’re Going Through Hell, Keep Going. I’m thankful she was kind enough to venture into the world of haiku to offer a contribution. And with much of the U.S. in the grips of a freeze wave — the temp outside my door this morning at 19° F going up to just below freezing — this haiku couldn’t be more appropriately timed.
If you know any folks who are elderly or house-bound and living alone, it’s not a bad idea to check on them in times like this. Freezing temperatures in the Philadelphia area also remind me to point out the needs of those without reliable shelter. Poject H.O.M.E. has a great street outreach program to help encourage those without shelter to come in from the cold. If you’re in Philly and you see a homeless person without shelter, you can call 215-232-1984 to let Project H.O.M.E.’s street outreach team know.
under the bridge,
homeless U.S.M.C. vet,
in the bitter cold
could anything be
as real as the smile passing
between you and me?
Longtime regular readers may have noticed the return to an old habit — that is the posting of a daily haiku. That’s how my haiku habit originally began. So as not to thin out the haiku quality too much, I’m going to occasionally revive old entries. This would be such an entry.
“Soft light” was originally posted last year. It also appears in my book — which, if you haven’t yet bought it but are inclined to, is available from Amazon. It’s a bargain at $7.50 a copy. Better yet, all of its 2009 net royalties will be donated to Project H.O.M.E., which happens to be one of my favorite charities.
Of course, if you already have a copy of the book or you just aren’t interested in it, I’d still encourage you to make a donation to Project H.O.M.E. (or the charity of your choice, homeless or otherwise).
I pulled into the parking lot at 10 a.m. Sunday morning. Before even getting out of the car, I noticed the bike with the fendered 26-inch wheels, old-fashioned handlebars, overstuffed seat and more improvised saddlebags than I thought a bike could hold. It occupied a good portion of the sidewalk leading to the front door of the restaurant. It was a slightly odd sight in this neighborhood, one comprising almost entirely middle to upper class residents. And within three seconds of entering the establishment, I could identify the bike’s owner.
There in the northwest corner of the place, sat a wiry, 40-something caucasian male with close-cropped salt-and-pepper hair and matching stubble. He wore stained khaki workpants, a greasy t-shirt, worn cross-trainers and a weak smile he flashed intermittently at the service staff as they moved between the kitchen and the dining area, shooting not so subtle glances at him. Upon seeing his smile, the thing that struck me was how straight and clean his teeth appeared to be.
It made me wonder where he’d come from – more demographically than geographically. Against the backdrop of a fairly upscale Sunday morning crowd mostly attired in church clothes, he struck me as someone who could rather easily be transformed into one of them, at least on the surface.
Was he a recent victim of the economic downturn, or was he a foreigner to this middle class world? Did he look at the rest of us, knowing what our lives were like? Did he flash that fleeting smile because he knew the restaurant service staff and patrons who seemed to look down on him were really only a few steps from his circumstance?
Being only ten years younger than him at the most, I thought about how slight a twist of fate it would take to find myself in his tattered shoes.