Saturday, March 25, 2006

Their Minds Are Full, and Their Pockets Lined With Details

So I'm back in Baltimore (temporarily) while I get situated with a job in Southern Maryland and a place to call home down there. What comes hand in hand with Baltimore? Coin-op laundry. Ick.

I took my mother load of laundry to the laundromat early this morning to avoid the night life I have encountered in the past there. I threw my stuff in a washer, sat down with my cd player and study materials for my religion class, and set out to make my laundromat time productive and relaxing.

Never in a million years will my plan to do anything at the laundromat be successful. I may have the chance to listen to music and be studious through the washing of my clothes, but NEVER while my clothes are drying.

Why? WHY?

Because I have the inexplicable ability to attract the conversation of homeless people wherever I go. I can't help it, they just flock. I'm not talking about those who ask for handouts, or rides, or pitty, or smokes I'm talking about people who sit down and talk with me for hours. Yes, hours.

My wash had about 10 more minutes left on the machine before I needed to move it to the dryer. I was listening to some Christian singers CD that I checked out from the library and studying for class and a tap on my shoulder broke my attention. A older man in umpteen layers of clothes and his life in trashbags carefully stowed in an old rolling laundry cart inquired about how much my cd player cost. Then where I had found it. Then if it had a radio on it. Then he went outside.

I got up and moved my clothes to the dryer.

After I sat down, opened my study manual to the chapter on The Plan of Salvation, retrieved my notebook, and got ready to pull my cd player back out of my backpack my new cd-player-inquiring friend was back in the chair he had been sitting in prior to tapping me on the shoulder earlier. I saw him stand up and knew I was about to lose yet another dry cycle of productivity.

And that I did.

He looked over my shoulder and asked, You takin' that in school? I thought he was asking if I took my cd player to school. I said, Yeah, I take it everywhere I go. He said, No. THAT. The Plan of Salvation. Ooooh. So I explained that I was studying for a religion class I go to each week. He asked what religion, and I explained that I'm Mormon. Immediately (and this has been the exact case for every homeless person I have sat down and conversed with) he asked me where the building was.

Now before you jump to conclusions and decide that its because homeless people are just trying to find somewhere to squat for the night, keep reading.

I have noticed that my homeless aquaintances seem quite interested in location, whether it be local or not. Our conversation moved on to the subject of Alaska (home). He asked every question there could possibly be about a place. He asked a lot of them twice. I drew maps and he wrote lists. In return for my time he gave me a few tips on places downtown I, being a young white girl, should avoid.

Theres a wealth of information in the pockets of the homeless. It seems to me, and this is from having done a lot of genuine interaction with these humble neigbors of mine, that theres a true grasp on the eternal aspect of knowledge. Knowledge lasts forever, cannot be stolen, isn't perishable, takes up no space and it's free. I have met many homeless people who are knowledgable, philosophical, and intelligent people. But even the geniuses of the world have to write things down and its no different for those who have nowhere to call home or may be scrounging for their next meal. Scraps of paper covered with facts about this, and maps of that, and insights on such-and-such, fill the pockets of many homeless Americans today.

So, I urge everyone to reach out and touch another life. Go find someone less fortunate and learn something, share something, and make a friend.

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