I went to the Salvation Army today to pick up some items for a client. Outside stood a older man, shoulders hunched over by age. He was very dirty and wearing tattered grey clothing. Next to him sat a rickety shopping cart which appeared to hold all of his Earthly belongings.
Now, this man was surrounded by several other men, all likely homeless(there is a homeless shelter next door). What made this man stand out to me was his pure joy. He was sitting on the ground eating a bruised banana as though he had not eaten in days. He was smiling as he chewed, practically bouncing while he sat in joy. My stomach clenched with the ever-present knowledge of hunger in my own community. I imagine I stood frozen for a minute. Frozen in horror at the idea of my full belly standing next to an emaciated man whose belly was empty. I tried to appease my own feelings with the sight of a bag of groceries sitting next to him that he had likely just received at the food pantry here. The man noticed me watching and smiled and waved at me as he continued to happily eat his bruised fruit. I smiled and waved back and went inside to retrieve what I had come for.
When I emerged from the building again, the same man jumped up to hold the door open for me. He was grinning ear to ear. I smiled and thanked him and, at those two simple words, his face opened in the same way it had when he was eating- as if he had been waiting for days for this nourishment. The nourishment of the simple kindness of another soul seemed to be as joyful and nourishing to him as the fruit. I found myself grinning back at him unabashedly.
We both stepped out of the shadow of the building and into the sunlight. He tilted his head up to the sun as though he were on beach, sunbathing on a careless day. Not bothering to tilt his back toward me, still basking in the sun he said, "It's the most beautiful day, isn't it?". And, I tilted my head towards the sun myself, my own worries slipping away as I remembered the simple joy of the sun on my face and replied, "Indeed. It is a beautiful day." We both began laughing, at what I am not sure. We stood there together for a few minutes until I had to say my goodbyes. He waved, his face still tilted upwards.
I left grinning like a fool as he stood basking in the mid-day sun. My heart was full.
Messengers come in all forms. Today, my messenger of joy came in the form of a disheveled, emaciated homeless man. And, I am forever grateful.