by Rev. Estelle Thibodeau
There is a little house on a certain street that I walk by nearly everyday. The house has boards and plastic bags covering most of the windows. The front door is painted the same charcoal black as the plastic bags on the broken windows. The porch is a small stoop of dilapidated wood and broken planters holding dried withering blooms and green wandering weeds. On occasion, there is a man that sits there with his front door partially open. I try to see inside as I pass by.
The yard is chain-link fenced. The grass, an unruly mass, crawls over and around all the junk, the metal racks, the piles of parts entwined together by neglect and time. I cannot imagine it could ever be useful, all these parts. And I notice how dark that little peek into the front door is, and how I see boxes and bins crowded near the front door like ancient captives unable to move. Several “NO TRESPASSING” signs, a, “PREMISES UNDER SURVEILLANCE” and a “THE OWNER OF THIS PROPERTY IS ARMED” sign are zip tied to the chain link fence.
This man must be a hoarder, a junk man, a recluse by the way he slumps on his porch with his head down. I say, “Hello.” and briskly walk by. He might be a convicted criminal on house arrest.
This morning, I have finally woken out of a funk. The death of a loved one snaps the beauty out of the world. And the idea of a better place ceases to exist when you are left all alone. It Makes all the junk stand out. All the ugly, the overgrown debris, the unnatural speed of things colliding with the slow and saddened time within.
For months, I've been walking angry. I look at the world and wonder why we plan things. How is this one still alive, and this one planning a trip in November when it's only just now summertime. Today, all that clutter I cleared in my heart and mind as best as I could. I eyeball the junkman's yard with suspicion and contemplation. If Jesus, God, the Universe, the ArchAngels, can walk with me in my happiest moments, then, so too, let me be guided with compassion.
This morning, I walked slowly. I took deep breaths and thought consciously and deliberately of my guides both alive and passed on. And as I was deep in happy thoughts, the “Junkman” crossed the sidewalk just as I was on my way. We both stopped, knowing we were neighbors. We spoke about the blazing heat and the humidity and the storm that came through the other night. I used to think the weather was something people discussed as part of idle chit chat, and what a bore that is, and how quickly we want to hurry on about our day. Now, I understand that it is a common ground for all of us to grow from.
So, the “Junkman” and I stood on the sidewalk under the shade of an old Oak tree and introduced ourselves with a gentle shake of hands. “People call me Smiley,” he said with a smile. Lighthearted and at ease, I walked on. “Smiley, of course.”