They call him homeless.
It’s almost said with disdain. Not overtly because that goes against some unwritten social moral code but it’s there. I recognize the undertone because I used to emanate the same one. It’s crazy if you think of it.
How the lack of a door on his home or running water and electricity puts one human being in a lesser category.
We don’t mean to judge others, but our world is wired to compare – who’s more famous, who drives a newer car, lives in a bigger house, wears more expensive labels, has more likes and shares and followers…
Let me introduce you to my friend John.
Actually, he lets me call him Treehouse John – you know, when you give someone a nickname, it means you love them and he knows that. John is in my top 25 people who have influenced my life. Because of getting to know him, my eyes have been opened.
Well, actually I should say my heart has been opened.
Suddenly John is no longer “that homeless guy who lives in the bush behind the Phantom plant”. John and I share the same age. He has a full name and he’s told me about his sister and family who desperately want to help him.
John can point to a specific time in his younger life when he made some poor decisions, which led to him not having a fixed address. Well, until he moved to our neck of the woods.
Treehouse John as you guessed, has a treehouse dwelling that he’s built. It is impressive. Constructed out of neighboring businesses scrap pallets and other odds and sods. It has a bedroom, sitting room/kitchen, and a bit of a storage room. Yes it’s crammed full of things we would toss due to being stained, bent or torn but he makes do with it. His treehouse is built on top of a forested ravine, on protected city property because of a creek that runs through on the bottom.
For the most part Treehouse John minds his own business.
Sometimes he has a bad day and causes a bit of stir with his cohorts but only when he feels threatened or violated. We would be no different except we can safely drive our car into the garage and push the button to close the automatic garage door, enter our home and lock the door behinds us, draw the blinds and escape from the madness of society. For some of us we’ll plug in the kettle for a cup of tea, or run a bath, or turn on the TV for white noise to soothe us.
John can’t do any of that to refresh and restore his soul but he tries.
We have a deal him and me.
He gets to use our exterior outlets for power to charge his cell phone (yes, even homeless folks are wired into the digital age) and the outside tap for water. In turn he watches our place. He runs off kids up to no good in our parking lot late at night and other unwanted visitors.
I like our arrangement and it makes John happy.
I personally can’t force John to make different decisions so that he becomes mentally well or choose to live under a permanent roof or go to a paying job lunch box in hand.
But what I can do is love him. And make sure he feels loved and valued.
Embarrassingly, I’ve learned he and I are no different. We serve the same God who gave us life. We both had a mom and dad who loved us. We both made decisions which led us to our present realities.
I now realize when I was 15 if I hadn’t stubbornly refused to join kids in my class to smoke pot or do the drug of choice back then, I too could be camped out beside Treehouse John. I keep thinking “wow, we are all one decision away from living under a bridge”.
I don’t pity John (nor does he want to be pitied). He is choosing to remain where he is at. I am however, beyond thankful, for whatever reason God gave me the capacity to make the choices I did, when it comes to my living conditions.
But just like John, there are some choices I made that I too wish I could take back.