He appears in the opening
of my front yard hedge,
this homeless man pulling a shopping cart
behind him with careful dignity.
His wild grey beard brings to mind patriarchs and prophets;
I watch with growing intrigue as he abandons the cart
to cross to the other side of the street to retrieve its twin,
equally laden with the treasures of his shrunken, grubby world.
His dignified bearing stirs me as my gaze absorbs
the determined set of his shoulders
the faded glory of his once expensive suit coat,
as worn and colorless as a child’s homework page
with too many erasures.
Suddenly I am darting inside to grab my purse,
anxious to gift this gentleman (for so he seems to me)
with the $11 I am able to scrape together.
I dash back outside, the crumpled bills
digging into my palms.
He stops his slow pace, turns his majestic head, and flashes
a guileless smile. His eyes are bluer than the sky;
they remind me of treasured marbles I collected
back when I was a kid.
“Here,” I say awkward and gawky, all but shoving the bills at him.
“I want you to have this.”
He looks at the money in my hand and his face lights up
with pure delight.
“Why thank you, Madam,” he says, with old fashioned gallantry
leaning towards me to accept my humble offering.
Much to my astonishment he bows, making a sweeping movement with his arms. When he straightens I see tears in his eyes.
“God bless you,” he says shyly,
chuckling as his old body plods into motion
pushing a cart before him and pulling one from behind.
I watch his slow progress down the sidewalk,
deeply moved, blinking back tears of my own
realizing that I, who so longed to bless,
have been graced with a blessing all out of proportion
to my measly offering of crumpled bills.
Sometimes you can’t help but wonder if you’ve just had an encounter with an angel unawares.