Monday, April 02, 2007


there is another kind of person on Wall Street. Or near it.

Joe hangs around Our Lady of Victory sometimes. He seems pretty healthy for a homeless person - I hate to use the term beggar, but Joe will not turn down a handout. Well, not always. There was the time that he walked into the chapel one day and gave me back the dollar I gave him....

He is a handsome black man, and he'll talk you're ear off. He'll toy with your collar, like he's straightening your tie. He used to make jokes as people passed by. His mind wanders, it seems. A little Joe goes a long way.

Joe and I have an interesting relationship. I used to spend more time than I do talking to him, listening to his story, offering advice. After a while, you quit offering advice and just listen.

Joe went through a phase where he was almost harassing people who were attempting to enter the church. People would sort of clam up and try to slide by him. One day I asked him, "Joe, can you please give people a little room coming in?" That was the day he gave me back the dollar. I had hurt his feelings, and I didn't realize it.

At certain intervals, Joe could be seen across the street from the Church entrance, arms folded, looking at the church, shaking his head. Whatever he was thinking, he didn't look happy about it.

But he was always there. Except when he wasn't -- for a short spell he was gone (he once mentioned family in New Jersey; and that he was a painter by trade). But recently he's returned, and looks almost as good as new.

Joe was standing on the corner that morning during Lent that I almost flattened a Wall Street pretty-boy for playing a game of Loafer-Tag with me. I stood there, begging the kid to knock the big, fat chip that was on my shoulder, off my shoulder. And then I realized, "wait, Joe is back there. He sees that you don't act like a good Catholic boy all the time."

Joe has seen me at my best and at my worst. Lately, something interesting has been happening. I'll come from morning Mass, and I'll hear a low, "Hey!" And I'll turn and from my mouth will escape an enthusiastic "Hey!" It just comes out of me. And I realize, "I'm glad to see Joe."

And I go over to him, and he comes over to me. And the last couple of times, I've been emptyhanded and had to say, "Joe, I'm sorry -- I don't have a dime on me." And I hate to do that. And he says something like, "It's not about money! You listen to me! YOU care."

And I say, "lots of people care, Joe." And he says he likes my scarf and he pretends to straighten it and he gives me a hug and says, "Somedays it's a New Day! I'm gonna make it! You say a prayer for me, now!"

And I say, "of course you are, Joe! You stay strong! I will say a prayer for you."

"Hail Mary," I begin, walking away, aware of an uncanny sense of dignity.


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