Be the River
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enjoy sharing Street Sense with all of our readers old and new. The new ones, especially. I frequently am asked why I am homeless. I’m an educated white man. Well, every person has their own circumstances. I’ve been homeless 3 times for a few months or a year but for different reasons. The first time was about 15 years ago. I was dating a wealthy woman who gave me a job and a trailer home. Wonderful. But after a while, we started to argue and one day I said, F$%# You! So, now I immediately have no home, no job, and no girlfriend. One helluva bad morning the next day. She had the cops come to evict me for trespassing in the trailer home. She owned it, so it’s sort of legal. I’m just devastated.
So I’m really depressed. Not suicidal, but close.
For advice, I consulted Curtis the Homeless Wino, as he’s known by me and others. Curtis lives behind the church on the corner. He was passed out early in the morning in the gutter of the church parking lot on the edge of the woods. He can’t sleep in the woods because it’s city property. He is a friend. I buy him wine if I have a few bucks sometimes and he is one of the happiest people I have ever met. (RIP Curtis.) He’s dressed like a bum but wearing brand new Walmart work boots. I kicked the soles of his new boots to wake him up. This was not easy, he’s hungover. Eventually, he woke up and said, “Hey, Matt. Wassup?”
“Curtis, I need your help,” I said. “Heather dumped me. I only have a few bucks, and I need to leave the trailer. I am so sad that I’m feeling like suicide might be an option. I might need to share your spot here in the parking lot. Curtis. Why have you not killed yourself yet? Why are you always so #[email protected]% happy? For real, dude? Why should I want to live?”
What he said changed my life.
“Matt, you gots to be the river. What does the river do when it hits a boulder? Does it stop? No. It keeps going. The river will go around it, over it, and under it. The river will tear it down and wash that boulder downstream. It’ll make that boulder a pebble. Matt, you gots to be the river.”
I have since learned that this is an old sermon. I heard it in church recently. But Curtis said it better than any preacher could hope to. He lived it. He inspired me to survive. To ignore obstacles. To know that downstream there is a better future if I want it.