They Too Have Dreams

By Judy Andreas

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
Cloths of Heaven  - W.B.Yeats
People regard them as eyesores.  The homeless litter your landscape.  They seek refuge in doorways and on park benches.You turn away from them in disgust.  You step over them with thoughts of condemnation.  You see them as less than human.  You see them as a visual nuisance.  "They created their situations", you tell yourself. 
 How easily you rationalize your inhumanity.
No, my friends, they are people.  They are flesh and blood, just like you.  They have hearts and souls and, perhaps, at one time, they too had dreams.  What happened to those dreams?
Why are these human beings on the street?  Why are they destitute?  Why are they cold and hungry?Perhaps it's not for you to know and certainly not for you to judge.  But don't turn away.  It's a very short distance from your warm living room to the street.
When my children were small, I would spend one Saturday a month volunteering at a soup kitchen in New York City.Sometimes I would bring my children with me.  
The first time I worked at Saint Ignatius Church, I had no idea what to expect.I, and the other volunteers, scurried around preparing a meal that consisted of hot soup, a sandwich, a hard boiled egg, coffee and dessert.Since the winter had not yet settled over New York, we set up tables outside.  And then the people arrived.It was a line that never ended.It was a line of ragged clothing and hungry mouths. 
"The line never stops",  I said to a co-worker.She nodded.I wondered if I could ever become desensitized to the specter before me.  No, never.
Many of the homeless I've met have been physically and mentally ill.Some of them have drowned their despair in liquor or drugs.  Some of them have shared their dreams.  Some of them do not speak.
Judge not lest ye be judged.
There are limited services for the homeless.In the eyes of the populace, they are merely "useless feeders".  They have been cast out on the street by a cold and indifferent society.  They have been cast out on the street by people who rail against humanity.  They have been cast aside by people who are quick to point a finger halfway around the world;  people who write screaming screeds, while in their street humanity bleeds.
And now, my youngest son is 23 and he has a female friend who volunteers at a Homeless Shelter.  Last week, Jesse accompanied Heather on her mission of mercy.They cooked dinner for the group and slept at the shelter.  In the morning they cooked breakfast.  After  breakfast, the people are tossed back out on the street.
"Homeless people are just like us", he told me.  But that wasn't all he had to say.  He had a tragic story to tell.
Jesse  told me about the man with the colostomy.A policeman had approached the man assuming that the bulge under his clothes was a bottle of liquor.  He demanded that the man hand it over.  The man was confused and stood immobilized.The policeman grew angry at what he interpreted to be lack of compliance. He repeated his order.  The man looked at him with childlike innocence.The policeman could no longer contain his rage.  He punched the man in what he assumed was the contraband.  The man died.  There were no charges brought against the policeman.
Oh, what'll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
And what'll you do now, my darling young one?
I'm a-goin' back out 'fore the rain starts a-fallin',
I'll walk to the depths of the deepest dark forest,
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty,
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters,
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison,
The executioner's face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten,
Where black is the color and none is the number,
And I'll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it,
Reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it,
Then I'll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin',
But I'll know my song well before I start singin',
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard,
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.
Bob Dylan
Copyright 2005:  Judy Andreas




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