Monday, December 6, 2010

trade in your slippers for boots

He shuffled through the snow in his slippers. Shuffling was the only way to keep his slippers from falling off his feet: they were open at the heel. Either way, the blue cloth covering his feet was now covered with white snow. I’m sure his feet were freezing inside his off-white socks.

He was shortish, a little under 5’4’’, I’d say. He was overweight and he had sparse hair on his head that was bared to the cold air; he had no stocking cap. He was older; what hair he had was gray and short. His face was round and stubbled; his nose red with cold. His whole body smiled as he made his way past the first parked truck in a line of three.

He was in this same place one or two weeks before, a Saturday. He signed up for something unique. Today, he was returning to claim what he’d signed up for.

He had been waiting in line for at least 30 minutes when I saw him. Prior to that, he had been surrounded by a crowd of at least 60 others, some taller, some smaller, some black, some Hispanic, some white, some young, some old, some clean, some dirty. All of them held blue slips of paper in their hand and made sure they had their cards with them to verify their identity. The blue slips were procured on sign-up day. Each had held on to their blue slip for one or two weeks. It was an important document. For many of the people there that Saturday (like my new slippered friend) it was a life-changing piece of paper. The paper matched their name with a new pair of winter boots.

Feet are small, but if they get frost-bitten at the beginning of a Minnesota winter, the rest of the year is hell.

Each truck bed was filled with boxes of boots, ranging in size from 8 to 14. Today, each homeless person with a blue slip of paper received a pair, free of charge.

We walked past the first truck and he was offered a cookie. We carried on to the second truck. He needed a size 10. He took the box and I suggested he put them on. He looked at me and explained: “Not right now. I don’t want to put my wet feet and socks in those boots.”

“Of course,” I thought. “Why didn’t I think of that?”

“Good idea,” I replied.

He carried on, probably going to find some place post-haste where he could dry his feet and don his new boots.

"God bless," he said, as he shuffled off in his wet slippers.

“His name?” you ask.

It’s far too sacred to write. Let’s call him Jesus.

1 comment:

Communitas Twin Cities said...

I was there with Troy and remember this man. Not only was he in slippers, but the obviously donated jeans he was wearing were at least three sizes too big. He had to continually hold them up with one hand so they wouldn't fall down. He had no belt. I kept wishing I had rope in my car I could at least give him to help him hold his pants up so he could have two hands free vs only one. Imagine, having to hold your pants up every second of every minute of every hour.
While living on the streets.
His name was indeed sacred.