About a month ago, on my way to work, I noticed a tent set up underneath a tree near the highway. Every time I've driven by since then, I steal a glance to take in whatever I can. Sometimes I see one person, sometimes two, talking or just sitting. Sometimes I see their clothes scattered about or the tent still set up. Then, about a week ago, there was only grass beneath that tree. There was no tent; no socks; no tan, leathery, skinny, grey bearded man attempting to stay cool beneath its branches... until today. I drove by, he was there, and for the first time, I got a clear view of his face. I saw a deep sadness, but I don't know if I projected what I saw onto his blank face because of the context in which I saw him. Maybe he wasn't sad, maybe he was just bored, maybe he was thinking or feeling the breeze on his face, or maybe life, love, or drugs had left him emotionally eviscerated.
I want to pull over and find out. I want to listen to his experience or give him a twenty dollar bill or both. I fear that instead of the romanticized version of who he is and the bad run of luck that brought him there, I'm afraid it's more likely that I'd find a drug addict or mentally ill man. In my mind, he's just a good person dealt a bad hand, but it's probably more realistic to think that he chose meth over shelter. I do try to look upon him with compassion but also with a mind for my personal safety, so I don't stop, not that he'd be willing to share his story with me anyway. I tend to think in terms of worst case scenerio for myself and that if I ever run out of money, make one bad choice, that could be me; that I'm just as vulnerable to being knocked down without a hand to help me back up. That's when I have to be conscious to remember that I am very lucky to have many people who care about me, that would give me a place to sleep, a warm meal or whatever support they could to help me get back up.
This past Monday, I was surprised by the man I've been dating, with tickets to see Ray LaMontagne and David Gray. Both of us reeeeeeally wanted to see Ray LaMontagne, whom I've never seen live. On our way there, we stopped at Whole Foods to pick up something to eat when I had a prolonged episode of arrhythmia, an unfortunate side effect of overactive thyroid, and had to sit down and try to relax. It scared me so much that each time I felt my heart flutter in my chest, I thought "I don't want to die today". Even though that was far from a near death experience, it really drove home the understanding that life is short, precious, and delicate. I don't want to waste it living in the past or the future. I'm very happy right now as I lay on my friend's floor writing this post and I'm so thankful for the people in my life that love and support me. This was a reminder to practice being present and grateful because in an instant, unexpectedly, everything can change. Who are you grateful for in your life? Have you told them so today?