I watched him for a long time this morning, shuffling along Massachusetts Avenue in a hospital gown and scrub pants. He never saw me. He carried two large plastic bags, the ones they give you when you leave the hospital, fit for carrying a coat you don't need now because the weather changed since you checked in, handy for carrying a plastic bedpan should you need to take one home. They were emblazoned with the name of a hospital in which I've been a patient more than ten times.
He was shuffling along alone outside, newly discharged. Whereas every time I've been discharged from that same hospital, my husband has come to get me, had the car waiting curbside (and the seats heated in winter, cold water in the car in summer). I've gone home to a comfy bed, food that friends and family made for me, to quiet when I wanted it and visitors when I was ready for them. I've been waited on, had time to recuperate, and have known love and care.
He wasn't a regular at the shelter he was approaching. I spend a lot of time there; I would have seen him before. And even without that information, I could tell he was not heading to a familiar place; his posture told me. He was unsure, turning back more than once from continuing on the path to the stairs to the front door. He hesitated, he dragged, he just didn't know if he should enter in.
And I wept at the sight of him, standing just outside a place of love, kindness, welcome and care, a place that would take him in, feed him, give him a bed and a place where he would hear love proclaimed over him if he wanted to listen to that today... unsure if he should go in.
I urged him onward silently as I cried in my car...for him, yes, but also for all of us who don't know that we could come in from the cold, be loved, find care.
My silent pleas and tears could not propel him up the stairs; he had to do that for himself (and he in fact did). We always have to make the choice ourselves, don't we?
But two things I want for all of us: that we will accept the light and love offered to us. And that we will look for those who need it and offer it when we can.