Thursday, August 20, 2009

20A - Zone 4

August 5, 2009
While riding the train to the airport, I noticed him. His head was covered with his sweater and he looked like he had been sleeping there for some time. Unlike me, boarding pass in hand, I doubted he had a plane to catch. Maybe the train was home. I have read about people who will ride all day just to have a safe and cool place to sleep. It gets them through the day. I admit the gentle rocking of the rail line and the steady hum of the motor is soothing – and supporting public transportation, I like to think it is safe.

I keep thinking about the sweater-covered rider. It is a mental picture of me on many days - wanting to shut out the world, board a train with no destination, blocking the light of day. Thank God, I haven’t resorted to train sleeping. But maybe we all do in our own creative and struggling ways. Being homeless doesn't always look like the tired man on the train. Homeless can be all cleaned up with designer clothes on; homeless can be a state of wanderlust, riding trains to nowhere, not caring about the final destination. Homeless can be a state of busy-ness – filling up hours with meaningless activity. Homeless can be a heart that can't feel, cry, or connect. Homeless can be a choice in one’s state of mind. The choices are many –fill in the blank with victim, entitlement, denial, lethargy, pride, ego, and on and on. When you are homeless, you have been convinced by an unworthy source you have no where to go. As Dr. Feelgood reminds our family “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there”.

In trying to save some money, New York is offering one way tickets to homeless people who have a family member in another city who will take them in. They must have their destination confirmed before they will issue the ticket. It sounds like a compassionate plan, doesn’t it? I wonder how it will work when the person actually shows up on their welcome mat with a sweater over his head and a hungry stomach.

As Christians we have that family member, our father in heaven, who has given us a boarding pass to Heaven - because we trust in Him. He welcomes all of us just as we are with all of our baggage. It’s been His plan throughout time.

I am saddened to think some will ride the train of life daily until death and not have a ticket for a better destination when this life stops. Some think they can just stay on the train, ride as long as they can through life, print their own boarding pass with little thought to the train stopping.

And it will stop. As we approached the airport, the conductor announced that all passengers must get off the train at the end of the line. As I gathered my things, I looked through the crowd of people, hoping to get one more glimpse of my inspiration. He had gotten off somewhere along the way – gone from my view, but not my heart and somehow I knew he had his boarding pass. One day he won’t be homeless.

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