Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Miguel

I dropped Ted off at an afternoon meeting in Santa Monica, parked the car, and took Abe for a stroll to enjoy the cool ocean air. We stopped into an all-wooden toy shop and when we came out, I saw a scraggly older man sitting on a concrete wall next door. We had only a few minutes to wait until Ted got out of his meeting, so I meandered over to him.

His smile that he greeted us with was all the invitation Abe needed to start saying "Hi!" to him. The man's face lit up even more as Abe made his acquaintance. He told me that his name was Miguel, and I asked if I could sit down next to him on the wall while we waited for "papa." He spoke about as much English as I speak Spanish, but I managed to find out that he was born in Mexico, lived most of his life in San Diego and has four children, all of whom are spread out across the country.

As soon as I sat down, he pulled out of his heavy overcoat a toy for Abe: the wind-up song part of an old baby mobile. He wound it up and handed it to him. Abe loved it. We had little to say, what with the language barrier, but Miguel, with his long white beard, cap, and sun-toasted brown face, just sat and smiled as Abe played with the toy.

An elderly Egyptian lady walked up as we were sitting there with Miguel and started to talk to Abe. She is the owner of a jewelry store around the corner and has been in this country for 37 years. I watched these two older people, neither born on American soil and both living in completely different situations, interact joyfully with my son. It's funny how a cute baby can bring people together.

Shaking hands with people is one of Abe's favorite things to do, so he held out his hand to the Egyptian lady. She took it and shook his hand. One shake is never enough for Abe, so he then reached for Miguel. And this is what broke my heart: Miguel furrowed his brows sadly, and shook his head no, gesturing to his dirty hands. Abe didn't understand why he wasn't getting his hand. So I shook Abe's hand myself, and then motioned to Miguel that it was okay. With a lot of convincing from both me and my son's stubbornly outstretched hand, Miguel caved. He offered a shake to Abe, which pleased both of them.

Miguel then gave Abe a colorful purple pen, which I tried to turn down, telling Miguel that Abe can't write yet. He insisted that Abe take it. For the next few minutes, Abe used the pen as a drumstick to beat on his wind-up toy while I sang "Old McDonald" and Miguel clapped along. Not long after, Ted came out of his meeting, and I introduced him to our new friend. I tried to give Miguel the pen again, but he shook his head and said, "No, for remember me" as he nodded his head in Abe's direction.

Again with a lot of convincing, we managed to convince him to take a few dollars from us, but he seemed embarrassed that we were offering. I've been thinking about Miguel all day and how I heard once that all the homeless really want from us is an acknowledgment that they exist. Just a nod of the head, a smile, or a moment to talk.

It's so easy to turn my head and ignore the many homeless in Los Angeles. So many of them suffer from mental illness or drug addiction, so there's always this fear of them doing something unpredictable or scary. Miguel today just seemed to want a little company. He was a kind gentleman, more generous than a lot of us. I wonder what led him to the point he's in currently in his life, sitting alone on a concrete wall in Santa Monica, smiling kindly at and sharing his few possessions with my son.

All he wanted was to be remembered. I can't do anything but.

23 comments:

coffeemom said...

Lori, What a post. I know just what you mean....and can visualize the whole thing as we lived there for 7 years. This is a beautiful post, as usual, and made me think of Dorothy Day and the movie about her "Entertaining Angels: The Dororthy Day Story"...which of course comes from Hebrews 13:2, "Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it".....

That's your boy (and you): entertaining angels, unaware.

God surely loves your open gentle heart. We do too. Bless you.
Love M

Ellen said...

This post really touched me and made me think - thank you, Lori!

ellen

Nicole said...

Beautiful post. Thanks for sharing your moment with Miguel with us and reminding us that we have much to be grateful for.

And coffeemom, that Hebrews quote is one of my most favorite Bible quotes.

Amy B. said...

Lori,

I love this post. This is the main reason that I am so glad that you are my friend. I love that you are willing to get down and dirty with those that truly need it...and allow your child to do so too. What a precious glimpse into the kind of person you are. Many people, dare I even say most people, would not be so willing.

amy

Stephanie said...

May God Bless Miguel beyond measure. And May God Bless you, Lori, for your actions, for your heart, and for sharing with us how we should do the same. (Extend even just a smile to others - or a conversation with a few handshakes.)

What a touching glimpse into your day. Thank you.

jen said...

I really love reading your blog. Thank you,
Jen

emily said...

Such a great post! My oldest said yesterday "Abe sure does allow us to have many conversations that we otherwise wouldn't have-- don't you think??"

Sweet Miguel........

Chris and Jess said...

Beautiful post Lori. I just know Abe is going to have a good heart and soul, just like his momma.

Staci said...

Wow. You painted the scene beautifully, Lori. So hard to believe that there are thousands and thousands of stories like Miguel's...

Jocelyn said...

Great post Lori...you are such a kind hearted person...Abe has such a great Mommy!!!

The Roberts Family said...

Oh ..... this post transported me back to our days in Chicago. I miss our sweet fellowship with the men at Pacific Garden Mission. They could SING like I've never heard before. They came from such brokenness, addictions, suffering and pain. But their new found joy just absolutely radiated from them. Each week they'd come over in our community living room. We'd enjoy refreshments and their singing would just fill the room up to heaven.

Thanks for sharing with us about Miguel. :)

Sam said...

what a sweet story

Caroline said...

yep, what ellen said.

Far too often, I do the head-down-and-scurry-past thing. Which is probably not a good thing, really... Hmmm. You've given me something to think about!

Los Cazadores said...

Beautiful post, gorgeous story. Now Miguel is remembered in this post and you've no doubt done him a justice for his kindness. It was fascinating to read how Abe brought that eclectic group of people together on the day you wrote about! Very sweet.

Cindy

Los Cazadores said...
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Blog Shmog said...

Great post Lori. I remember about 10 years ago when i lived in Chicago, for college. I avoided most homeless, mostly out of fear that they would do something to me (lots of mental illness and drugs) but also because I liked to use the excuse that they will probably use the money for alcohol or drugs. As I've aged I've learned how wrong that way of thinking is and how I need to let God be the judge of them. I need to reach out to the lowest and not avoid. I actually need to make a point to go to them. I love that Abe shook his hand. I bet that lifted Miguel's spirit in ways you don't even know. You are a lovely person. :)

Hauswife said...

Awesome. Miguel probably thought about you and Abe all day, too... What a wonderful, precious interaction. Every time we've chatted or had a meal with a homeless person I've gone away grateful for the exchange of human kindness -- on their part more than mine.
Beautiful, Lori.

Jennifer and Jody said...

beautiful. so many points of beauty in this story...thanks for sharing.

Lori said...

Wonderful, thank you for sharing this...

Lori

Amy said...

This post made me cry Lori Lori.

You were very sweet to acknowledge Miguel and share conversation with him. I am betting that he remembers you and Abe too.

DrewCareyShow said...

What a wonderful post, Lori! It reminds me of an old homeless friend of mine from when we used to live in Santa Monica. Wayne. We knew him for a few years and used to bring him meals but mostly just carried on conversations when I would take Rocky for walks. He preferred to live on the streets, so he said. When he died (he was an alcoholic), another homeless guy found me to let me know. It's such an important reminder of what really matters in life. To love one another. Thanks for the reminder.

Stacie said...

Amazing post Lori. It has left me with tears in my eyes. You are a beautiful soul to recognize that deep need of recognition that people have.

Renee said...

Lori, thanks for the beautiful reminder. Moments like these are what shape our children and teach them to have a compassionate heart and love for people.
Renee