Skip to content

Assumed to Actual…Downer and I.

He’s completely ignoring me. I don’t exist. He won’t let me catch his eye. Old guy, sitting alone on the lawn. Yellow-brown stain down the right side of his whitish beard just below the corner of his mouth. Chewing tobacco. Wide brimmed hat and shades hiding his face. On purpose. Ratty pack within easy arm’s reach.

“ Awesome (crappy, cold, windy, are some other adjectives in my not scintillating arsenal) day, huh? Did you get enough to eat?” My conversational skills are minimal in uncomfortable situations and most situations are, for me, uncomfortable.

Barely perceptible nod that says, “Go away.”

“Good stuff, huh?”

Angry grunt in the affirmative.

“Hey, I’m glad you’re here,” now, with outstretched hand, “My name’s Ken.”

No reply or acknowledgment of the proffered handshake.

To him, I’m the man, worse yet, probably a Christian, therefore dangerous to his emotions, peace, property, body, spirit, freedom or a combination thereof. Best to stay away. Hide. Take what he needs, then go away.

Over the coming weeks he’ll thaw under the quiet repetition of the above conversation. I’ll soon know that his name is Downer. It’ll be months before I know the why of that moniker.

Then one Sunday, or at a chance meeting at Daywatch or on the street, he will greet me with an overlarge smile, eyes wide with recognition and respect, body language and speech exaggerated. Firm, pumping handshake. Trying to impress. He may call me “Pastor Ken” though I’ve never even hinted at a pastoral role or office of any kind. Sometimes this progress of relationship will show itself over a long period of time in miniscule, subtle cues that have to be watched for; sometimes it erupts into view without any warning that I can discern.

I’m still the man, but safer now. Still the man, but worth impressing now.

But over time, (it could be years) we’ll meet; hug. Equals now. Barriers down, role-playing gone away, stereotypes disolved by time spent together, and mutual respect. Friends, at last, to fail or succeed without shame between us. Knowing us two…mostly fail. Sometimes forward.


  1. K-Gal wrote:

    In this age of fast/instant everything (it seems) do we have the patience and give the time it takes to cultivate relationship? Just thinkin’ out loud… I still find myself judging so damn quickly – others and then myself when I know I’ve judged others.

    Monday, June 21, 2010 at 6:58 pm | Permalink
  2. kloyd wrote:

    Slow is really difficult, but it seems that’s all I get.

    Monday, June 21, 2010 at 10:24 pm | Permalink
  3. Joe Grier wrote:

    “Your clientele will be a mixture of thirds,” he said … “about a third are employed, a third are families with children, a third are mentally disabled, a third are veterans. (Ken would include ‘a third are runaway kids from Christian (sometimes) families).’ And about a third of those eligible for low-income housing receive it. In the past fifteen years, two and a half million low-cost housing units have been eliminated, and the federal housing programs have been cut seventy percent. Small wonder people are living on the streets. Governments are balancing budgets on the backs of the poor … only fourteen percent of disabled homeless people receive disability benefits … the frightening part of homelessness is what you don’t see on the street. About half of all poor people spend seventy percent of their income trying to keep the housing they have. HUD says they should spend a third …” (The Street Lawyer, John Grisham) Reminded me of you the whole time I read this book last week. Much love to you, bro.

    Sunday, July 25, 2010 at 12:04 am | Permalink
  4. Ken wrote:

    What’s the title of the book?

    I love you, Joe

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 3:33 am | Permalink
  5. Amy wrote:

    Beautiful. You are a great writer.

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 5:48 pm | Permalink
  6. Joe Grier wrote:

    “The Street Lawyer”

    Friday, July 30, 2010 at 10:17 am | Permalink

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

  • RSS tweets