Today I met a gentle soul. His skin was weathered well beyond his years. The wrinkles on his face told a story even too harsh and unbelievable to share. His long blonde beard, with something red strangled between some hairs. Blue eyes, but the cancer has taken away the sparkle. And his sandpaper hands…..Two marriages, no kids except the two Chocolate Labs that waited for him back at his unpaid hotel room. When I saw him standing with his sign: Homeless Vet & Hungry, I didn’t see a Tax Burden, I didn’t see an alcoholic nor a drug addict, instead, I saw ME. I saw me, making one wrong decision that could turn my life into a hurricane of wrong events. I saw me, making every right decision, but for some reason, LIFE simply wasn’t on my side. I saw me, I knew where I was but wasn’t sure where I was going. I saw me, but had no roof over my head, I saw ME.
To Mr. James Keenan, I will probably never see you again. But I thank you for the 20 minutes you shared with me about your life in Indiana, your gratitude for being some place like Columbia with lots of nice people. I thank you for your service to our country and I’m sorry that you are one of the thousands of homeless veterans in our country. I wish I could have bought you lunch – but someone beat me to the punch. I wish I could have met your labs that brought the sparkle back to your eyes when you spoke of them. But just 20 minutes with you reminded me of how precious life is. You reminded me, that no matter how hard life gets, that there is always something to be thankful for. If I could have bought your room for a month I would have. But your lingering hug and the tears in your eyes, when I said, “I’ve got your room for tonight,” told me I had done enough. May God bless you & keep you warm.