Rob and I went to see "Great Big Sea" last night. What an amazing show they put on. We're pretty partial to their unique sound. They straddle the time-honoured shanty, ballad, sea song world of their beloved Newfoundland and the right now world, with honest, straight up lyrics and engaging, catchy tunes. They pretty much hosted a huge 'kitchen party', with fiddles, concertinas, dobros, tin whistles, guitars, drums and a jumping, stomping, full to the doors crowd.
Usually when there's a big event at concert halls, arenas, etc. you'll see the homeless or the desperate for money.
Last night was no exception.
The crowd was streaming outdoors. . we were in it, doing the 'shuffle', you know that one we all do when in a big pack of people trying to funnel out too few exits?
We finally got out the door and turned right to go towards the underground parking.
That's when I saw him.
Sitting on the freezing cold, snowy sidewalk.
Dirty and thin.
Grimy khaki ballcap on his head.
Dressed in not warm enough layers.
cardboard sign in his lap:
"Cold, hungry. . please help me. God Bless."
People passed him, laughing and talking, buzzing from the concert.
He sat invisibly on the sidewalk
nobody noticed him,
he looked at no one.
My heart felt a stab, but i walked past with the crowd.
My head started with the rationalization - 'he's just working the situation'
'he's probably gonna spend any money he gets on something he shouldn't'
'you don't have any cash on you'.
Heart prevailed, foolish maybe, there are always maybes that come to mind. . but i pushed them away.
Rob gave me a few bucks, cuz I had no money.
I walked up to him. He looked up at me with dark eyes and said hello.
He looked tired.
I handed him the money and said that I hope it helps a little bit.
I asked him where he was living.
He told me "Under the bridge".
hard, frozen ground and snow.
I don't even know.
I asked him if there was any place he could go to get out of the weather.
He shook his head no. . and looked up at me and said: "Last night was hard. . it was so cold."
He held up his palm with the money in it and said "God bless you, thank you. "
I could only blurt out "God bless you too. .I hope you can find some shelter."
My words seemed all stupid and useless.
That piddling token will disappear with one trip to the coffee shop.
I know he's out under that bridge right now in this -5 degree night.
". . .is anybody listening...?
love is kneeling - above the broken body the ever-upturned face
love is missing - all the words are broken, help me, i cannot find my way,
no i can't
love is streaming - streaming with the tears that we cannot seem to shed
love is frozen - frozen in the figure they just pulled from the subway grate
love is burning - burning with the anger that we all feel, against which we
our faces pressed into the lap of loneliness, come on love
will you sail 'cross the water and lay your wisdom down?"
Jane Sibbery -- "Sail Across the Water"