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It was a balmy night in Baltimore, late July. The plan was to meet my CouchSurfing hosts at a bar where they would be performing their guitar-fiddle-duo music – and for free! I was looking forward to this! Another friend dropped me on the curb, just up the block, and I made my way to the venue. As I approached the door, it became clear to me that the man sitting at the door was not going to just let me by. I began pulling out my wallet to show my ID.

“You here for the show?” he asked, eyes fixed on the guitar case strapped to my back.
“No, I’m here to see some friends play.”
“Oh, ok. Eight dollars.”
What? I thought this was free!
“Well, I don’t have any money. I was busking all day, only made a couple bucks.”
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He turned to another guy sitting in the foyer with him and continued their conversation. I pretended to be interested in it, standing awkwardly in the doorway and waiting for a good chance to chime in with something witty or charming enough that he’d let me in: one of the many behaviors that makes me socially awkward. After a long time of standing there silently and moving out of the way, holding the door for paying customers, I decided that it was now far too awkward. I would just slowly back out of the doorway and wait outside for my hosts to finish their set.


“Can you spare some change?”
I had watched him walk toward me. He was a tall white man with a thick gray beard, inappropriately dressed for the warm weather – with a jacket, long pants, and who-knows-how-many layers, he must have been baking under all that clothes! He was obviously homeless and there was no surprise when he asked for change. Still, I could hardly afford to spare.
“Sorry, I don’t have anything.”
[Which wasn’t true, of course. But this is my knee-jerk response to homeless people, unless I feel as though I can spare. The statement would certainly be true if I tacked  “to spare” on the end of it.]
He looked at me incredulously. There was a little bit of crazy in those eyes.
“Sorry, man. I wish I could help.” And it was true! I really wish I could. The thing that most upsets me about being a starving artist is the inability to be generous.
“You don’t have any money?”
I shook my head no, “sorry.”
“I’m hungry, I need food.”
“Me too, man, I can’t help you.”
This seemed to upset him. “I’m homeless! You’re not homeless!”
“How do you know? You don’t know that. You don’t know anything about me! How dare you assume anything about me?”
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I was truly upset about his attempts at leveraging his poverty to assert his entitlement to what little money I had. I don’t appreciate when homeless people have an attitude of entitlement about that which belongs to others. I was also somewhat concerned about my safety, standing in the dim light of the street. Would anyone see or hear me scream?
He ignored my queries “Look at me! I’m homeless! Do you have any idea what it’s like out here?”
 “Actually, I do have an idea. I’m homeless too. Traveling, hitchhiking, busking. I’m trying to make my way right now too!”
And I didn't mention this, but I slept on the streets of Orlando for a week during my spring break in 2006, just to see what it was like. I think I got a pretty good taste.
He said he had seen me busking earlier in the day. Still, “you have a home! You have a place to live! I have to dig my food out of the trash!”
Were we really having a who’s-more-homeless-than-whom fight? Surely he would win out; but not with the trash argument!
“So do I! I dig through the trash for food too!”
Stumped, he turned and walked away slowly. With shoulders slumped he looked so… lonely. Feeling compassion on him, I called to him after he had walked about half the block, “have a good night!”
He wheeled around and approached me menacingly, “good night?! How can I have a good night? This is where I sleep! This is my home! The earth is my home, I sleep outside! Rain or shine.”
He started telling me about himself, his parents and wife. To my great dismay, I can only remember a small bit of what he said; but here's the Cliff’s Notes version:
  • His parents are long dead, I think he said they died in a plane crash.
  • He had been married to Janis Joplin (but doesn't miss her)
  • He is Jesus. Like, you know, the Jesus.

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Jesus and I talked for a while longer. I was glad to keep him company for a part of his night. When my hosts appeared, I introduced them to Jesus. They were as surprised as I was! The guitarist, Ben, apologized about the cover ordeal. He didn’t know they would be charging at the door. Jesus didn’t stay much longer and the rest of us headed to Ben’s home. He was sorry that I had to talk to “that homeless guy” for so long.
“No worries, I didn’t mind at all! I love talking to homeless people. I’m practically one of them myself. Besides, I met Jesus tonight! In the flesh!"
How many people can say that?

By: Gio Andollo

 


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