“Esse Quam Videri”. . . Dont ever forget it!!!
Last months share at Margaret T. Hance park was perhaps one of the greatest days in my life. I took entirely too long to write about it but here it is. . . one of the greatest moments in my short history.
During the month leading up to this share, which would make it our fourth share I found myself spending alot of time thinking about Ray Saunders A LOT. When I met him for the first time it was seemingly nothing impactful to either party. We were in a group of 6 people, 3 of whom were homeless and 3 of whom were with Help A Human. We were all talking, we were all sharing. As the minutes passed we begun to separate ourselves to more one on one conversations. Danielle was talking with Reed (our Morgan Freeman look-a-like), Maegan was talking with Sundance, and I found myself glued to Ray. Ray is tall and slender with a smile that will put the sun to shame and a laugh that will make the birds scatter. His spirit and his story were perhaps what captivated me the most. Hes from New York, he served over 15 years in the military both as a soilder and as a drill seargent. He was a fire fighter during the 9/11 attacks, and now he is here in Phoenix, homeless yet happier than ever. It wasnt fully his choice to be where he is now, but he isnt concerned with that anymore, he focuses on the NOW and how he can impact others lives greater than he can impact his own. I am certain that this is why we attract to one another. We both have September birthdays, so maybe that has something to do with it.
He spends most of his days at a local church where he has his own Sunday School class and daily Bible Study. He is also in charge of organizing all donations and food drives within his church community. Now if you were to read this paragraph without knowing that it was going to be about a homeless person, you would have painted a picture of the American Hero; Tall and strong with pearly whites and a heart of gold. A man who went to college, and got a great job, and who is now giving back to his community through what he knows best. But becuase he is homeless, hungry, and wears leathered skin, and has a “failed” past (as seen through the lens of cultural agreement) we walk over him like a puddle in the road hoping that he doesnt naggingly ask us for spare change. This man has lived a tremendous story, one of which is no where near complete. . . Just take a minute to realize that these people are everywhere, scattered throughout this country who happen to be a bit less fortunate than you and I, yet he is no different than you and I. We all ask ourselves the meaning of life, and we all ask ourselves what our purpose is within it (at least once in our life) and everyone decides to follow that purpose or not. I have, and with all my power I will do everything that I can do to allow for Ray’s story be heard, because this man impacts his community greater than the majority of us who have more than enough means to do so. Just try that on. . . see how it fits. (not intended to be a guilt trip at all)
The days were approaching and our next Help A Human share was coming up and I cant even begin to tell you how excited I was for it. I talked with Ray for a few hours when I first met him and asked him what it was that he truly “needed”. After going back and forth about how he doesnt “need” anything I finally got him to let his guard down and trust me. A MAJOR BREAKTHROUGH for the both of us. Once that safety net was down we were now both fully willing and able to communicate on a whole other level; one where we could transcend ordianary conversation and create something meaningful. He needed a radio. Something that he could listen to when he has no one to talk to, when hes alone and all that accompanys him is the city silence. He loves baseball, primarily the Yankees (I strongly dislike the Yankees, but I was willing to let Ray’s devotion be an acception haha). He loves music, and he loves God. He could access all three within a simple radio, powered by two AAA batteries. I was more than willing to give him that. The only hard part was that he was going to have to wait a month until he could use it.
That day finally rolled up and I had my pillowcase ready for “Ray Ray” Saunders. Inside was a variety of things that he could use for the next month until I saw him again but we all know what he was excited for. . . the radio. We got to the park and we immediately begun handing out bags. People in the park know who we are when we show up, becuase we show when we say were going to show, and we bring what we said were going to bring. They have begun to trust us and actually welcome our company. I shared with some new people that I met for about an hour or so, all while clutching tight to the bag that I had made for Ray. I went to the spot where he always is, with Reed and Sundance. He wasnt there. I asked Reed;
“Have you seen Ray?”
Reed responded “No I havent seen him all day, he should be around here somewhere though.”
My heart sunk, I begun to feel some sadness and some anxiety. Was I going to be able to share this bag with him? Will he even get it?
I put all of that aside and begun talking with Reed and Sundance. About an hour passed and no signs of Ray anywhere, I couldnt stop thinking about it. Was he going to show?
Then I heard a voice from across the park.
“SHAUN!!!! SHAUN IS THAT YOU!?!?!?”
It was Ray!!!! My heart leapt and it felt like I was in a movie, he dropped his duffle bag and he had the biggest smile on his face. He saw the pillowcase. He saw me. We got closer and the energy was profound. He came running to me with his arms as wide as they could stretch and when he wrapped them around me, let me tell you from the bottom of my heart, I have NEVER recieved a hug to strong and so powerful, so full of love, emotion, releief and joy in my ENTIRE life. He kissed my neck and repeated “God had blessed me with you” nearly ten times. We separated, looked eachother square in the eyes, and we embraced again, laughing with pure joy, like long lost brothers. He got his radio, and with it came some peace of mind, and a boatload of trust. I promised him one thing, and when he got it he was surprised. He has been let down by many people in his life and when he recieved that simple gift, his past was as transparent as the tears that rolled down his aged face. I have found my purpose, and he has reinforced his own. To transmit to others greater that it was transmitted to us. To be, rather than to appear. To be the change that we wish to see in this world. A dear friend is what I have in Ray, and I am honored to say that he has one in me.
A close friend of mine shared this with me, and it has stuck onto my soul with great purpose, and perhaps it will do the same for you:
“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project,
all of your thoughts break their bonds, your mind transcends limitations,
your consciousness expands in every direction and you find yourself
in a new great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and
talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater
person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.”
Shaun Rico, CPT