14:40. Actually, Leo arrived first.
But he got turned away.
I left church at 13:40, and got to the bus stop about five minutes later. Normally, a bus comes within a few minutes. Today, no bus came.
And no bus came.
Then no bus came.
After that, no bus came.
I started becoming impatient. I reflected: the bus that would come would not only be late, but likely also extremely crowded. It would be difficult to fit in my bags and my person among the other passengers.
Also, each passing minute, the odds went up that I might be turned away from the shelter. What emotional shape did I want to be in then?
I began sublimating, willing, my anger into contentment and friendliness. If I were to let myself stew in negativity (darkness), it would deplete the energy (happiness, light) I needed to face the likely adversity on the bus. But if I chose to be happy now, I could more likely be pleasant to people while on the bus, and then have ample energy available to face whatever I might meet at the shelter.
The best present makes the best future.
Dwelling in untoward feelings could have negative repercussions not just for this afternoon but even for years to come.
At 14:13, a bus finally came. As I expected, it was packed. Not as I expected, it didn’t stop.
Now I was in a fix.
I hailed a cab. The sticker on it said it was from Anne Arundel County. It’s illegal for a county cab to pick up fares in the city. I surveyed my situation and chose to break the law. I asked the driver what time it was. He said 14:24.
We arrived at the shelter at 14:31. As I walked into the parking lot, here came Leo walking out. I said, “All full?” He said, “The gate’s locked.” The gate is supposed to open at 14:30. When it’s locked, it means they’ve reached capacity, and no more bunks are available. Today it happened within one minute. I said, “Let’s try,” and we began walking toward the gate.
I’ve known Leo for several years. He’s an older guy; rarely shaves; his walk says Parkinson’s. He has some cognitive impairment and hardly ever speaks. He never, ever bothers anybody. As we walked today, he began telling me animatedly about having lost his passport.
At the other end of the parking lot, I saw Steve coming, limping with his cane at high speed. We all reached the gate together. The lock was indeed on; no one was in the smoke pit to know we were there. Steve fumed that some newcomers may have come and robbed us of our bunks. I thought, “No one owns a bunk.”
I phoned Arnie and told him who was here. He said the two who arrived first could sleep on the floor. I said, “That’s gonna be a tough call.”
Two peacekeepers opened the back door. The young, fat one, who’s only been here a few days and talked loud all through the Loretta Lynch press conference last night, pointed at Steve and me and said, “You and you.” He looked at Leo and said, “Sorry, Pops.”
Now, Leo had actually been there before Steve or I. But His Insolence seemed unlikely to listen, so I kept quiet. I said a prayer for Leo. God will take care of him.
He’s got the whole world in His hands.
Related: Unwelcome news at the shelter