I sleep in a basement that should be reserved for Ben’s potato crop from his personal garden and for the canoe the boys share in the summer. Yes, this much is true.
But yesterday Drew and I made two new friends who humbled me in a way I should be humbled daily. They made me infinitely grateful for my dirty little basement floor.
As we were walking the mile or so from the boys’ house to Charlottesville’s downtown walking mall for what I hoped would be a visit to my favorite Tea House, a man and his friend caught our attention. The strongest looking of the two men was holding his hand up and calling out to us as he and his friend crossed the street wearily. These were tired men. Very tired.
Just out of the hospital, explained the one man, except he called it “your luxurious hospital,” referring to UVA’s hospital. “Pneumonia” he explained.
“I stayed up in that waiting room all night!” explained the other, an older gentleman than the first.
These men were tired. They were both sick and perhaps a bit confused, but sober. They had no money and no homes and they were weary of walking. We sat with them in Wendy’s and listened as they ate. “Tom and Jerry brought us nine and a half days from North Carolina,” said the younger man.
“That’s his legs. Tom and Jerry,” explained the older man.
While one man explained that he was a restless type, and didn’t like to stay in one place too long, the other added tiredly that he was tired of walking. The latter had an obvious difficulty walking.
“Ask him who carried him across the railroad tracks!” said the other man. “Right on my back!”
New York and Pennsylvania were their destinations. So much walking to go.
The conversation went on, but our new friends were growing tired, and the one whose legs ached began to remind his company that he just needed to find that bridge to sleep under for awhile.
Sick. Tired. Cold. Rained on.
He just wanted a bridge to sleep under.
Drew returned to the bridge that evening with a bowl of soup for each and, sure enough, our friends were still there, eager to receive dinner.
This morning we saw only the sleeping bags they had sworn they’d leave behind to lighten the burden of their weary bones.
Just a bridge to sleep under…
I keep picturing that gray haired man carrying his companion on his back.
And the other old man, waiting in a hospital waiting room all night.
I keep picturing hope taking shape as a cold, damp, bridge.
Hope in a state miles and hours away; unreached.
Hope in a dollar.
Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”