|In the neighborhood of Andersonville in Chicago, there is this glorious contraption of entertainment, the Puppet Bike.
Anyway, I got there early and was sitting outside watching the Puppet Bike when this dude sat down next to me with a duffel bag and gym shoes with no laces. I know this look. It's the homeless look OR the look of someone on a psych ward who has had all their laces and belts stripped so they don't try to off themselves. I have lived both situations. Anyway, this dude sat there for a minute and pulled out a HUGE hard cover Dictionary and proceeded to read it. Upside down. I know this story. I have lived this story. I so vividly remember sitting on park benches trying desperately to act normal to appear normal to BE normal while I was casing the people walking around me to see if I could get any cash or favors from them.
This is the conversation:Him: "I was going to ask you if you had a smoke but I see you are pregnant."
My tears welled up as I answered, "I quit smoking right before I got pregnant, so I'm sorry I don't have one for you."
Him: "So you really did smoke?"
Me: "Yeah, I did a lot of things. I'm a recovering drunk."
JHim: "You sure don't look like one."
Me: "I've been where you are. Are you OK?"
Him: "I'm OK, I just wish I had a smoke right now."
Me: "Well I hope to see you at an AA meeting some time. They are all over the place, there's one right down the street here. My name is Katy." And I offered my hand in greeting, which he did not take.
Him: "Uh huh, hi Katy, good luck with your baby."
And off he goes.
Every time I have an encounter like this, I am terrified. I look at my life today and know I am ONE DRINK away from that man last night. I don't push AA, I offer it and suggest it and say, this is what I do and it works for me. I hope it works for you too. I can't NOT reach out to people. It makes my husband nervous, but I'm a smart cookie. I don't take a lot of risks, but I will risk helping someone if I can.
One of the reasons I loved smoking, and there are many, is that it was a chance to strike up conversations. Smoking can be a very social thing and there is not an opportunity for that if you aren't in a group with the smokers any longer. Sure, conversations can happen anywhere, but the smoker conversation is something unique. You know what I'm talking about. I miss it.
I went on to meet my girlfriends for dinner and we were transported back to being 19 and 20 years old and clueless but now with perspective appreciating the shit we went through. We had each other's backs then and it feels like we do now too - in a very different but lovely way that only people with shared history can have. We went through a very fucked up Theatre/Acting school for 4 years, and we have a bond because of that. We laughed a lot and all realize that we were together during a moment in time where we were young and naive and yet thought we knew everything. We didn't know shit.
I didn't tell them this story of my conversation with the gentleman wanting a smoke because while he is my people, he is not everybody's people. He is lost, he is pushed aside by society, but mostly by himself. He's not lost to me. Nobody is lost. They just have to make the choice to start being found.
The Thing I Love this Thursday is BEING FOUND. By old friends who appreciate you for exactly who you are and all you've been through and for a lost soul BEING FOUND by sheer grace.