Yesterday, I watched a homeless man walking the length of sidewalk outside the courthouse. He was draped in a white toga from his shoulders to his sandaled feet and apparently didn’t have of a coat to protect him from the biting December winds that whipped through the caverns of tall, city buildings that surrounded him.
A length of golden tinsel, probably the treasured result of rummaged trashcans and dumpsters, encircled his head like a crown. He carried a wooden staff in his right hand which he held out before him like Moses parting the Red Sea.
Instead, this man was parting the sea of people elbowing their way to other places; busy people with urgent agendas who dressed in suits and designer clothes, who scurried into buildings, who carried briefcases in and out of meetings and who impatiently glanced down at their watches in the middle of hurried conversations.
He was not one of them. And they wanted nothing to do with him.
I stood protected inside the warmth of the courthouse and watched him as he almost glided above the concrete sidewalk, the wind billowing his white toga behind him like impotent angel’s wings.
He was smiling.
For some reason still unknown to me, I knocked on the window to get his attention. He paused and turned toward me, then in a graceful and kingly gesture, raised his staff toward me and in recognition of my presence, then bowed. I bowed in return. Slowly, he turned from me and continued his endless journey among the city streets.
Then, separated only by the plate glass windows that ran the length of the building’s façade, I walked with him down the street - me inside the courthouse walking parallel to him outside on the sidewalk - until the wall inside stopped my progress. He didn’t notice, but kept walking as if I wasn’t there.
An overwhelming sadness overtook me as he disappeared from view. I wanted to run to him and ask him why he didn’t appear cold although the temperature outside approached freezing. I wanted to ask him if he’d ever been in love or had children. I wanted to know where he got his meals and what he thought about when he woke each morning. I wanted to ask him if he still had unfulfilled dreams tucked warmly into the corners of his heart, like me.
This was his kingdom. He owned it; it didn’t own him. He owned it simply because he asked nothing from it and needed nothing from it. Not a cent. He was free from the unremitting daily demands the city, and life itself, placed upon everyone else.
I slung my briefcase over my shoulder, impatiently looked at my watch, then pushed the elevator button and headed for the third floor where the busy people with urgent agendas who wear suits and designer clothes would be; people who carry briefcases in and out of meetings and who impatiently glance down at their watches in the middle of hurried conversations.