I admit that my “look” can be a problem for people. (Listen to me, acting as though I looked like the Elephant Man or something).
I readily acknowledge that even though I haven’t been homeless for some years now, there is still a part of me that hasn’t quite shook it off. Most noticeably, my look. I still look homeless, as my husband says.
And with my being on foot wherever I go with rucksack on my back, I definitely blend in with the guys coming and going out of the homeless hotel, the weekly stay hotel a few blocks from here. I expect that. I’m not foolish, I know I’m not in couture, I am a middle aged, rough skinned, scruffy faced man in a faded ballcap, thread worn jeans and a t-shirt. I know the impression I leave behind.
It never really seems to bother me when I’m standing next to someone somewhere and they give me the side eye. That doesn’t bother me because I never feel I have to prove something to someone I’ve never met. I know who I am.
I have my story, many stories, wrapped up in nice, tightly bound paperback books. They don’t know that. They don’t know I knit for a living, they don’t know I went to high school in Europe, that I was living in Berlin when the Wall came down (30 years ago this Saturday!), they don’t know I’m married to a handsome man who would take a sword to himself before allowing any harm to fall upon me.
They don’t know anything about me, so I can’t find fault with them. They’re just judging a book my its cover.
However, I’m not always that understanding and forgiving. Like the time Phillip and I were crossing the street when a woman screamed, “Goddamn homeless are everywhere!” To which I yelled back, “I’m a world famous knitter, bitch!” Sometimes I find it necessary to tell the uninformed just exactly who I am….
None of my achievements and experiences are found in the way I dress. No, the only experience that still resonates close to me, the only experience that still haunts me, the only experience that still burns in me that you can actually see on my skin and in my dress is that time being homeless.
Because that is the one experience in my life that I have never been able to shake. In many ways, I fear being homeless every day, I fear that somehow someone could take all of this away. I don’t like that feeling, I despise that dreary fear that will not let go of me.
So, I push. I blog, I write books, I knit my teddy bears, I spend every waking minute letting those things tell my story….And yes, maybe I do let my clothes tell my story sometimes.
I am so looking forward to the day that it becomes something of an acknowledgement to my story that people will see a middle aged, rough skinned, scruffy faced man in a faded ballcap, thread worn jeans, t-shirt and rucksack on his back walking the side of the road and ask, “Is that him? Is that Mad Man Knitting?”
I want you to rethink your perception of those guys that walk along the highway with everything they own on their backs, a cat by their side, the sun baking their skin, their tired feet swollen and wet with trench foot, his belly grumbling because it has been neglected, his presence ignored or diminished by society….
Because any one of those guys could be me. Not in hindsight. But, right now. Every last one of them is subject to the same love and blessings you have given me.
I may not be one of them anymore, but I still walk those roads to do my errands right beside them. Everyday.
Hopefully my writing, my knit bears, this ambitious man that I am, will all lead to me being a millionaire one day. That would be amazing….
But, I would still be down there every day; a middle aged, rough skinned, scruffy faced man in a faded ballcap, wearing thread worn jeans and a t-shirt, with rucksack on my back….
Sorry, I guess that’s just who I am.
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