“Nothing in this shelter makes more sense, makes me understand my purpose more, than to kill bugs on a homeless man’s flesh, to dress him well in donated, cast-off clothes, to see him the next day laughing besides a burning barrel.” Nick Flynn in Another Bullshit Night in Suck City
If home is where the heart is, what happens when you don’t have a home? Well…you are not the heart-less one; if we don’t offer our hearts to you, we are. Having a home is so central to one’s existence–in a practical sense but even more so in an emotional sense. Root-less, place-less…and love-less…recognition-less.
It’s almost as though having no address condemns you to oblivion; dooms you to live in the shadows, unable to be located. Lost… The homeless are ubiquitous, yet utterly invisible to us, wraith-like as they present themselves to us out of the peripheries of life we choose to pretend doesn’t exist. “That’s someone else’s lot; not mine.”
The vent that his father sleeps on in the winter is no less a prison because it has no walls: “The blower is a room of heat with no walls. My father stands in this room, an invisible man in an invisible room in an invisible city.” He has “plenty of places to go, but no place to be.”
Nick Flynn’s metaphor of standing in one place, if you are lost, so you may be found is especially poignant when he adds, “but they never tell you what to do if both of you are lost, and you both end up in the same place, waiting.” He continues, “I see no end to being lost. It isn’t a station you reach but just the general state of going down.”
SOME seeks to help people, at least temporarily, even if for one night, be visible…be seen…be humanized…and be welcomed. This is why I am teaching a benefit class for them. When I was little, I read “The Little Match Girl” by Hans Christian Andersen and it always stayed with me. A man in Dupont Circle sometimes holds a up a sign,”Please help. You could be in my shoes one day.” He is right.