07
Jul
09

Everyone has a story: Meet William

Though only some of us are storytellers, everyone possesses a story.

Stories make us unique, yet accountable to one another; they are the filaments that connect people from all walks of life – indigenous tribes and Wallstreet bankers, migrant workers and retirees, stay-at-home dads and the woman on death row.

Some are left untold, discarded among the city streets as faces move in and out of the shadows. But stories never die – they hibernate, waiting to be unearthed.

A few weeks ago I traveled to Chicago, IL for a writers conference. Before heading home, I spent the afternoon wandering through the galleries at the Art Institute of Chicago and listening to my ipod, the swinging voices a perfect accompaniment to watercolors and muted photographs. A few hours later I found the exit and left, my mind reeling with the stories of those told through paint and brush.

I met William while walking back to my car. Dressed in military garb, he possessed a quiet voice, kind eyes, and a dingy Styrofoam cup that he used to collect change. Countless people pushed past, all elbows and long strides.

I never carry cash on me, though I probably should. Rather than pulling out some singles, all I had to offer him were a couple of granola bars. He smiled, and we exchanged names. Our words were few, but his countenance radiated the unspoken. William emanated peace. His eyes flared with a combination of acceptance and determination. He didn’t judge, didn’t dwell on bitterness. Instead, he smiled. William shared his story with me without even meaning to. I only wish we had spent more time talking.

The face of homelessness is changing; perhaps it’s never even been what we’ve perceived it to be. In the course of one year, 600,000 families with a combined 1.35 million children will experience homelessness in the United States – that means about 50% of the homeless population are families!

Quite honestly, it’s not always about mental illness. Or lack of education. Or substance abuse. Not too long ago, those living on the street weren’t that much different than you or I. We’re all part of the same story, whether we live in a house, an apartment or a tent city.

In this blog, you’ll be reading the stories of the men and women in Detroit that drift from street to street. You’ll meet Ray and others, friends of mine who have taught me more about the spirit of generosity, love and thankfulness than I could have even imagined.

Dig with me. Excavate the stories of those around you. Absorb yourself in the stories told on this page. Know that right now there is a man named William that lives on the streets of Chicago – not in a glass high-rise, but more likely, in the frame of a glass doorway. Like so many others, his story matters.

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1 Response to “Everyone has a story: Meet William”


  1. August 1, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    Every one is sad. Every one is dying. Why are they dying. The living know that dying is the great victory;, so we should all rush to die. But most of the living do not want to die. they want to live, be happy, laugh and do silly things, because it feels good, and they are right.
    And, if they are fortunate to live and be happy and laugh and do silly things, and again are fortunate —-they get older—-but they still remember, when they were younger during those wonderful times, of marriage, of the birth of their children, of being a happy family, and proud of the achievements of these same children.

    And then time passes and passes, unrelentlessly. But, they are still good times, happy times and they joke about being old and feeble and not being able to do the things they did when they were younger. The mind is still active and young, but the body refuses or fights against anything the mind asks it to do. But, they are still good times, and we don’t mind now being in the background at family gatherings and just loving the love, support and warm connection that we feel.

    And when we are alone, together, we are happier again—-we have no secular or needs of things, we look at each other and we each know the love we have for each other. Just a look, or a touch and we feel like our chest’s are about to burst with happiness, of just being together. And we are thankful, and we thank God for his Blessings that he has given us, to be in love with each other for so many years. And we feel total Happiness!!!!

    And then, suddenly, one is gone. Wait! Wait!! I am not ready for this. There must be a mistake. This is not real. This is a movie, or a trick. I cannot see her. I cannot talk to her about the little things we always talked about. She is not in her chair where she always was. She has gone. I cannot look over at her and tell her a little funny story, just to see that beautiful smile again.

    I am alone. I understand what happened but I Can’t accept it. I just want to talk to her again and hold her in my arms again, and tell her how much she mneans to me and how much I love her. I can still smell her, a rare radiance of perfume, not one that is purchased, but the fragrance that God gave her. Fresh, pure and haunting for more.

    I miss my Girl, my Woman, my friend, my Coach, my one and only person who made me the happiest man of all time.

    I am praying for God’s help to stand strong until I meet her again in Heaven!!!!!!!!


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