Homeless with Cancer

As if.

As if life isn’t hard enough for my friend Kevin who lives on the street, today I learned that his cancer has spread to his lungs. Last Sunday we met in the parking lot where we meet each week with about 250 of our other friends, and as always he was cheerful and jubilant.  Excited about life.

Kevin and some others, like Jerry and Wayne simply amaze me. In some of my most reflective moments they’ve placed a hand on my shoulder, and given me words to light up my day. Words of inspiration and hope, words better than any motivational speaker could offer.  On the street, I’ve met so many motivational speakers who don’t even know how inspiring they are.  Their words are gifts that breath life.  Some are lawyers, architects, men with business degrees who have fallen on hard times.  Sometimes the hard time is just temporary.

Today Kevin was deflated, resigned.  But still he had hope.

I’ll think of him tonight when I’m snuggled in my bed and he’s sleeping on the concrete floor of the shelter or under an overpass.  We embraced, and I told him I’d pray. On the way out, I said goodbye to my friends, and knew that there were some I would not see the next time.  Life on the street is unpredictable.

But life for those of us with roofs over our heads is also unpredictable.  In The Compass, I created a character named Solomon, a young street boy with an old soul.  He reminds me of the homeless adults. Wise beyond his years, smarter in some ways about the real meaning of life, than even the wealthiest person I know.  When you have nothing, who you are is everything.  Love, character, giving, heart, soul.  When everything is stripped away, the only thing that matters is who you are. And sometimes who you are changes with each year, as you evolve into someone new. My character talks about how we are so focused on the work we do, how we define people by their jobs, instead of who they are inside.

As we left today, I slid into my car, and a police officer pulled up and stormed out, baton in hand.  He strode quickly to my friend, and older man with a cane, and barked at him. “Move it!” he said angrily.  I wondered if my friend had been a puppy, if the officer would have picked him up and taken him from the cold.  How could he not know the beauty and gifts available inside these humans? How could he not see, how the people on the streets are just people.

He continued on, chasing them down the sidewalk, wherever they paused, waving his baton and barking orders for them to get off. (more…)


The Rules

A man told me recently that his goal this year is to be authentic and reach a complete congruence between who is he and who he wants to be.  He had a problem he was dealing with in his life that he couldn’t manage well because it didn’t match up to his ideal image.

I leaned over and picked up a rock from the dirt below our feet.  The edges were sharp and dirty with clay.  I had a small rock collection back at the house from various travels and an image popped in my head of one rock I’d found at the bottom of a creek bed.  It was round, flat, and smooth.  It felt like soft fabric in the palm of your hand.  It was comforting to hold.  But now i help the sharp, ragged rock between us.

“God made the rough stones,” I said, “and he also made the perfect smooth ones.”

This whole notion of who we should be keeps me up in the night lately.  So many people live under the weight of who they should be according to the rules society has set.  But where is the truth in all of that?

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Love Hurts, or Does it?

One of the central themes of my most recent literary work, The Compass, is Love and the way it wounds us.  I’ve learned so much about love, but never the answer to it.   I’ve learned that there are so many different kinds.

There’s passionate love, agape love, and the kind of love you have for your dog.

At times I am reminded of the Romeo and Juliet kind of love.  That feels like the kind of love you’d die for.  Open, exposed, like a forest fire threatening to extinguish the life of everything in the forest.  The good, the bad, the large mammals and small.  The wildlife, flowers and bonfires.  All of it gone.  Most of us feel as if we are experiencing this type of love at some point in our lives.  Usually when we are teenagers grasping at the meaning of emotion.

Then, I am reminded of a different kind of love, the kind that you’d die with, not for.

This is the type of love with depth, but a love so deep you don’t feel the need to shout it from the rooftops.  It’s a bury the body kind of love.  A 3am friend kind of love.  An unspoken , indescribable, cannot stop thinking of you kind of love.  It’s the kind of love you’d be prepared to die with, take to the grave.

Last in my pondering, I think of the kind of love that one dies from.

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