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Monday, April 1, 2013

Strange Conversations






                                                                                                April, 2013

Dear Family and Friends:

Passover winds down here in Bloomington, and around the world.  Spring is finally springing and winter, like my hairline, is receding.  Thank goodness.  Working at a homeless shelter is a constant reminder of those Passover words, “Let all who are hungry come and eat.”  As I've told you in the past, volunteering at the shelter, working in their kitchen, has opened up a whole world for me.  It’s not that I didn't know that there were homeless people.  But now there are faces, personalities, conversations, and more to make it all so very real.

Certainly several of the people I encounter every week have mental issues.  I’m no psychologist, but I do have eyes and ears.  I meet two very interesting people every Monday at the Shalom Center (not a Jewish organization at all.  It was founded by the Methodist church here in Bloomington.  They just liked the meanings of the word “Shalom,” so they used it), and I have the same weekly conversation with each of them. 

The first man meets me as I am about to enter the kitchen door at 11:55 every Monday.  He looks very serious and always asks me if he can ask me a question.  I say, “Sure.”  Then he thinks for a moment as if he is going to ask about Einstein’s theory of relativity or something, looks into my eyes and asks, “What time is it?”  I always tell him that it is just about noon and time for me to go to work.  Later, while I’m having lunch on my break in the dining room with all of the others who come to eat, he appears and looks for me.  When he spots me he approaches and always asks, “Do you own a blue Cadillac?”  Sometimes it’s a Mercedes, sometimes an Oldsmobile.  But I think it’s always blue.  I always smile and tell him “No, I walk to the shelter.”  That’s it.  I can’t see any harm in these oft repeated conversations.  I even think this fellow looks forward to them.  I asked some of the other workers about him.  No one knows him and no one else seems to have such conversations with him.  Funny, I look forward to seeing and talking to him.  

The other fellow’s name is Daniel.  He’s an intelligent person who I hear speaking several languages in the dining room.  Like Johnny Two-times in the movie "Goodfellas," who always says things twice ("I think I'll go for the papers, for the papers.")  Daniel has the unusual habit of chuckling between sentences.  He’ll say, “I went to the store today, he, he.  And bought potatoes, he, he.  I served in the military, he, he.  Did you, he, he?  He and I also have very similar conversations each week.  When he brings his plate up to the window I’ll say “Howdy, Daniel;” after which he will give me his evaluation of the day’s menu. 

It’s like:  “Hi Daniel.”

“Great mac and cheese today, Ron, he, he”   Or, “Loved the rice and beans with those little sausages, he, he.”
 
Now, I don’t make the food or determine the menu.  I just wash dishes.  Never mind.  Daniel reports to me, every time.  Then he will smile and be on his way. 

I know that I would be disappointed if I showed up at the Shalom Center and was not asked for the time, and if I drove a blue Caddy, or heard the daily menu report.
 
Ain’t life interesting.

Ron

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