Saturday, December 27, 2014


I stopped by Walls in Waikiki to watch the Sun setting this afternoon. The final days of 2014, producing an array of colors that even the eye can't discern, but the camera sensor surely reproduces vividly. I was thinking about Christmas Eve and how I had wanted to share this story, but had come across a photo of homeless Tony and his crooked back, and ended up sharing his story. Now I can share about my Christmas Eve.

Work released us early and I stopped by the Honolulu Post Office parking lot to run over to pay my electric bill. I quickly pulled into the only visible stall open and right in front of my car was a disheveled looking man holding a little piece of cardboard. I didn't really look at him, but chuckled to myself, that the only open space in the lot had a gentleman looking for assistance right in front of it. As I dug around my cup holder for quarters to feed the insatiable meter, I felt Blessed that I often find encounters so readily, and they are always memorable in some way or another.

I purposely didn't make eye contact, but noticed that a man exited the vehicle on my right, and handed what appeared to be a dollar bill to the gentleman with the cardboard. I peripherally saw the man in need, pat the man's hood several times as he bent over, then smiled a large crooked smile at this man while nodding his head up and down. It seemed like he expressed his appreciation by patting and caressing the man's car hood rather than patting and caressing the man's shoulder as he stood next to him feeding his meter.

I exited my car, and as I headed towards the rear to open the trunk, a woman speaking Japanese to her companion was trying to squeeze past me to get into her car which was on my left. I had to suck in my gut and turn sideways so we could both pass and not get wedged together. We both broke into large smiles and laughed as we passed each other. She was finely and elegantly dressed and she exclaimed, "Merry Christmas!" as she opened her car door and slid in. I responded, "Merry Christmas!" I felt so warm inside.

I opened my trunk and caught a glimpse of the man with the cardboard still standing in front of my car, as I figured he was waiting for me to come to the meter. As I dug around and found the things I wanted to take with me, I noticed peripherally, the Japanese woman rolled down her window a few inches and stuck a crisp dollar bill out. The man came between the cars and graciously accepted the money and then bounced his upper body up and down, almost like bowing, with a big smile on his face. I still didn't really make eye contact with him, or get a good look. I knew that would come soon enough as I took my time straightening out my trunk contents a little before closing the trunk itself.

As I came around the side of my car, making my way to the front to feed the meter, I looked at the man as he looked at me. He had his head down and looked up in little glances, with a humble smile breaking now and then. I read his little beat up cardboard sign with messy handwriting. It read: Deaf. Please help me if you can. God Bless..

I looked at his face, which was slightly contorted on one side and a little droopy. I thought maybe a stroke but wasn't sure. He also had strabismus, where his eyes looked slightly in different directions. His clothes were a little tattered and stained as well. His overall appearance led me to believe that Life had been very difficult, especially his childhood. He also presented a somewhat frightening sight for those who may be wary of strangers to begin with. I knew he couldn't help it however.

As I fed the meter, I opened my wallet and starting thumbing through it, while smiling at him and motioning him to come over to me. He was a little hesitant, as he stood about six feet away, and I kept glancing at him as I dug around, finding a crisp ten-dollar bill among my crumpled smaller bills and receipts jammed into the leather folds.

I held out my hand and he slowly came over to me, and reached towards me, grasping the bill, and bobbing his head up and down in thankfulness. He put his two hands together in a praying motion, while smiling, and I noticed he had teary eyes. He started talking, and I realized it was the somewhat incoherent speech of someone who was born deaf, or who lost their hearing while in infancy. He started getting excited and motioning all over the place.

He pointed to my wallet, then feigned holding a wallet while looking through it, then with his other hand, snatching his wallet and moving his arms like he was running. He looked at me pleadingly, shook his head from side-to-side, while saying " don't steal wallet...people afraid." Then he pointed up to the sky, put his hands together in a praying motion, and smiled at me with more tears in his eyes. "Thank you...thank you..." he said.

He also mumbled some other things, that were too indecipherable for me, as he flailed his arms excitedly around, going back and forth between pointing to the Heavens, and putting his hands in a praying gesture. He presented such a sympathetic case for me, that I quickly felt an affinity to him. I smiled, gestured to him, while telling him, "I know you are a good man. Don't worry..." while hoping he could read my lips which he was intently watching. He shook his head again, up and down, while smiling and holding his hands against his heart." 

I looked at him, smiled, and said somewhat slowly, "It's going to be okay...I love you..." He smiled, said, "I love you too..." in his almost unrecognizable pronunciation, and then started shaking his head back and forth, saying, "I don't steal...I don't steal..." I moved forward and hugged him, and he patted my back lightly, still being a little standoffish and I realized that he smelled of immense body odor, and was probably self-conscious, thus the patting and caressing of the car hood rather than patting that man who gave him the dollar.

I had to go pay my electric bill before they closed on Christmas Eve, so I looked at my new friend one more time, as he still had tear-filled eyes, and my eyes began to tear. As he looked at me, he acknowledged my tears by making a sad frowning face and shaking his head back and forth, and pursing his mouth. I looked at his eyes, smiled, and said it again, "I love you..." He said "I love you too.." and we embraced. This time, however, I squeezed him tight, and he squeezed me tight. We hugged for what seemed like half-a-minute, oblivious to the many onlookers surrounding us, a strange sight to gawk at for sure. The only barrier between our two Hearts was a little cardboard sign, with scribbled hand-writing on it, now squished between our chests. I felt like I could have stood there forever as the feeling of elation and deep inner Peace swirled around putting me in a euphoric state, as if nothing else in the World mattered right then.

We released our bond and I patted him on the back, and said, "Hang in there brother..." He smiled through his tears, and said, "I will...I am a fighter..." as he motioned with his two hands, boxing in the air..."I am a fighter!" in his guttural pronunciation, while he broke into a great big smile. I smiled even larger, "You are a fighter...survive...." We waved goodbye, he blew me a kiss, and I turned to quickly make it to Hawaiian Electric. I felt so alive...

By the time I got across several streets and cross-walks, and made it to the office tower to pay my bill, the office was closed already for Christmas Eve.  I stood at the dark glass, my bill and check in hand, and shook my head. Then I thought of the blessing of even having electricity, and money to pay my bill. I chuckled as I looked at my own reflection in the dark glass, then began my journey back to the car, all the while, thinking about my new friend. I pulled out my wallet and began digging around, pulling out all the bills left, mostly small bills of fives and ones, as I walked on the sidewalk.

I happily folded them up, stuffed them into my shirt pocket for quick access, and walked back to the parking lot. When I arrived, I scanned the area for my friend, but to my dismay, he was nowhere to be seen. I had really wanted to Bless him with a little more money since Hawaiian Electric was closed, I figured that I had a little more disposable income that day, and much rather give my new friend a share, then the electric monopoly. I also realized that I didn't formally introduce myself to him, nor did I learn his name. That bothered me the most, especially after forging such a bond. It is the anonymity that keeps us from getting too close to those in need, that makes charity sanitized, as if we don't want to get too close or too personal and thus, bear a greater responsibility for our fellow man or woman once we know their names. I always try to get names now, although I admit I am so terrible at remembering them even right after being introduced.

After walking around the lot, I decided that my friend had probably gone to get something to eat and drink with his new found wealth. I certainly would in his shoes as he looked really worn out. I knew that I would probably see him again and truly look forward to that just the thought brings a smile to my face and to my Heart.

As I drove home, I could still smell his body odor on my Aloha shirt, from our long embrace. However, instead of being repulsed, I actually treasured it. It is a smell that I only experience when I am close, and embrace someone living on the street. It isn't an offensive smell. It is a smell of Human Life. I know many are embarrassed by their street odor, and if they could wash it off, they would. If they could properly comb their tangled hair, they would. Wash their clothes. Change their underwear. All the things we take for granted. I have had many people on the street apologize for their smell, when I move in to embrace them. Even Beautiful Meredith. My amazing friend who lived on the streets for ten-years fending for herself, finally getting a roof and bed, only to die a few months later of insidious Cancer. I still remember her smell. A gritty womanly smell. Her oily hair that she brushed regularly but couldn't shampoo enough. Her smells elicit so many Beautiful Poignant Memories.

I have had more Life altering experiences getting this body odor smell on me. So it represents some of the most powerful Emotions, Gratitude, Blessings, Compassion, Hope, Faith, and Love I have ever experienced in this Life. I needed this encounter on the Eve of Christmas, much more than my new friend did. It makes me feel some deep buried insecure level. Way down deep inside the depths of a little boy who had many fears and insecurities, and who is spending a Lifetime trying to overcome them. Still trying to validate an existence...over and over.

So this pungent odor is the favorite Soul-enriching smell of my most memorable Christmases. Not pine needles, scented candles, and cinnamon...but body odor...from those who through their suffering, help to make my Life Worth Living. I am forever grateful. Happy Birthday Christ...