I took her to the courtyard at the Jewish Museum. We were practically alone, but then a middle-aged homeless man walked up to us. “Can you spare some money so I can buy socks?” he asked. We looked, and he was, in fact, sockless. He was very thin, African-American, with battered clothes, an unkempt beard and ragged skin.
I had a single, a five, and a ten in my wallet. I said, “I can give you one dollar towards the socks.” He replied, “Can I share a poem with you first?” Maybe I should have asked Donna what she thought, but I said, “OK.”
He started reciting his poem, and he was terrific. The poem was about faith, how faith is not dependent on belief in a particular god or religion or spiritual tradition. Faith is belief in the world, in the future, that even when you don’t know what is going on, things will be all right. I probably shouldn’t presume to know what someone else’s creation is about, especially not after one hearing. But it was something like that, and it was inspiring.
He told the poem in performance style, his voice rising and falling, phrases illustrated by gestures, lines repeated for effect. He would have been good on Def Poetry Jam. (If you’ve never seen that show, get a video.) Halfway through, I put my single away and took out my $5. At the end, I switched the five for the ten and gave it to him. It was worth it. I can always use another shot of faith.
Help and hope are out there, if we’re open to them. I would like to hear your stories of help from unexpected sources, if you’re willing to comment.