Paul in Leonard

It is a normal Saturday at the salon — a few customers are waiting for a haircut, while others are getting a shampoo.  The place smells like hair, and melon, and kiwi-strawberry, and money, but mostly hair.  The stylists are making small talk using the latest gossip on celebrities in TV.  The hair dryers are blowing, and the scissors are cutting away bits of hair while the cash register rings in bills and credit cards.  The customers stare delighted at the looks of the professional models in the magazines at their disposal, wishing they could look the same.  Suddenly, someone breaks the almost musical rhythm by yelling, “Oh crap! It’s raining!”  She rushes outside with a towel to cover her new baby, a model-of-the-year more-expensive-than-her-expensive-condo automobile.  She does not want the paint to wear off just yet.  She does not want her shinny new car to suffer.  Everyone here understands — after all, it must be expensive.

It is yet another weekend at the dollar store on Leonard.  The shelves are stocked with useless items so cheap that by simple math, they seem almost necessary.  Customers are lined up at the register, waiting to see not how good a deal they will get but rather how much money dollar store items will drain out of their already dry wallets.  These are tough times, and if buying smaller quantities in even smaller quality can help save a quarter, then, well, that must be a good deal, right?  The shopping carts move around the store like rush-hour 28th-street traffic.  As soon as the tempest is sound and water starts free-falling, customers start rushing out to their cars with their plastic bags full of plastic, carrying a leather wallet with thinner paper and lesser plastic.

It is prayer day, and a day for another sermon at the gigantic ceremonial building.  People gather in to sing, and to cry, and to enjoy, and to fake a smile, and to listen to the only correct interpretation of the biblical collection that is guaranteed to send them straight to heaven.  Although they may not love their God and may not love their neighbor outside, in here, they are in a safe haven where their love pours out, and spreads like crazy, and shines in glory and what not.  Here, their hearts give glory in the form of paper and metal with no taxable value, deposited and later transformed into a bigger building that money can be poured into.  Of course, it also transforms into eternal free housing, cars and stipends for a family of holy brats and a perfect pastor who never errs.  Together, as it starts to pour outside on Leonard, the church members sing and dwell in their internal glory, protected by their own echo inside of the beautiful concrete arrangements.

Outside, it is not just another day for Paul.  Today is a rainy day, so he is forced to setup camp on a piece of cardboard just outside of the shopping area.  One side of his cardboard reads, “Will work for food.”  The other is merely his chair.  He did not eat this morning, and is probably not going to have lunch either.  Paul’s gray beard and darker complexion do nothing to hide neither the tiredness in his eyes nor the growling of his stomach.  He has no home, no family, no food, and only a failing, supposedly non-profit system to somewhat help him every now and then.  He is tired.  He is suffering.  He is vulnerable.  Yet, no one understands.  No one understands how he became homeless, or how he could still be homeless.  Some people stare at him for a few seconds as they walk out of the salon, and the dollar store, and the church on Leonard, but they quickly look away and forget him.  Some others are too busy trying to stay dry to even notice him.  So, he sits there, waiting for the rain to pass, so he can go search for food, or work, or hope — the same hope, perhaps, that he seems to have lost a year ago when he lost everything.  He and his cardboard sign/chair just sit there forgotten, staring at the rain out on Leonard.

A fellow walks by and gives him everything in his pocket. He never even learns his name, and feels guilty to just drive away.  He calls him Paul in his head.  “What will Paul do with just that much money?” He wonders, as he drives off, hoping that maybe Paul will at least stay dry and then buy lunch.  The coward fellow runs home to hide from the guilt of not doing more for Paul.  Quite honestly, though, he does not know what else he could have done.

About Gabriel Mongefranco

Gabriel Mongefranco is your software developer for all things data: extraction, integration, analytics and security. He is also a blogger, a poet, a proud father and a faithful Christian. He is always eager to contract with faith-based nonprofits! Learn more.