I watched the homeless men for a few moments until their gazes turned eastward and they lifted their hands to wave. I followed the gaze to see a familiar shopping cart being pushed down the sidewalk. The woman from the dumpster waved back at the two men and soon approached them. Before they could rise from their bench, she pulled the garbage sack from her cart and started digging around inside.
I craned my neck a little in anticipation of what she had found. Though I couldn’t see their faces, I could see the gladness swell in them from the change in posture as she pulled out what looked to be a half loaf of bread. Each of the men grabbed a few pieces and the woman went back to the bag to produce what looked to be pomegranates.
One of the men looked around before pulling a knife from his pocket and cutting the fruit in half. As they devoured the sugary beads inside, the woman put the bag back into her cart and pushed it on down the sidewalk. I watched her as she went, a slight limp to her gait as she moved down the meandering path.
She stopped again under a palm tree, where she was greeted by another seemingly homeless man. Again, she pulled her bag from the cart and delivered sustenance. When the men on the bench finished their cuisine, they rose from their seats and ambled in the other direction with a little more bounce to their step. Seeing the woman put her bag back into her cart, I too rose and followed her from a distance.
She made three other stops before she reached the end of the island, and I nonchalantly paused several paces behind her each time, watching as she shared what she had found among the city’s refuse and restored the strength of those who had also been cast aside. Some of them rose immediately after eating and went on their way, and some simply sat and soaked in their good fortunes, but each thanked her and managed to muster a smile through their dirty and unshaven faces.
When she reached the end of the island, she parked her shopping cart in the shadow of the fountain, where two sets of bronze dolphins frolicked in the streams of shimmering water. She walked down to the shoreline, kicked off her shoes, and walked a few feet into the water. The hem of her dirty green dress kissed the lapping surf, and she raised her arms in the air, looking up into the midday sun. She spun herself around in slow circles, either oblivious to my presence or just unconcerned. As she moved, the hem of her dress swirled in the water, making it difficult to discern her garb from the gulf.
As she turned circles in her aquatic dance, I noticed the look upon her face. Submerged amid the wrinkles developed by time and dirt brought on by hardship lay an uncompromising serenity that seemed to shine through her eyes as she looked up into the open sky. Though this woman obviously lived a life defined by destitution, one that would drive most residents of Sarasota into an unyielding foray of depression, she still found the strength to hope, to find joy, and to actually show love. Though the plight of her life seemed to offer the worst kind of severity, she met the onslaught with uncompromising mercy and grace.
I took a few more steps toward her conveyance and glanced at the cart with piqued curiosity, hoping to find where she stored her ability to find light in such a dark place. It was filled with various garbage bags, many of them with holes that revealed her stashed wardrobe. A few crushed cans lined the bottom, and assorted trinkets were stockpiled throughout. On the top, in the smaller, retractable basket, was a dog-eared copy of the Holy Bible, the front cover ripped and spine broken from living as hard a life as its owner.
I looked back to the woman to find her standing still and staring at me. At first thought, I feared she would think that I was intending to make off with her belongings, but her eyes did not hold any such meaning. She simply offered me a little smile and resumed her dancing. But in that one look, in those dancing eyes and that soft smile I saw the reason for her jubilation amidst the wreckage.
She had peace. Though she lived a life that few would covet, it was her life. And though her station on the societal ladder was one that few would strive to climb down to, it allowed her to fulfill a purpose that she would otherwise be unable to achieve.
In a flash, the wisdom appeared to me, and a lightness overtook my heart. Though the woman carried a weathered copy of scripture, it was not there that she found her true purpose or her true relationship with God. She found it in mirroring the example she found in the pages and becoming that example for those who might never crack the book. Amidst the chaos that seemingly enshrined her life, she realized that she was not the only one affected by it, and found her purpose to be bringing the light to those who could not find it. I realized that she had her own version of marketing, and that her profit was in fact a heavenly one. Her service was not done for dollars or stock shares, but for thanks and smiles from those who knew little of it.
The question of `why bother?’ came to my mind once again as I watched her sashay in the twisting waters. The answer was that life demanded it. The sheer fact that we exist meant that we exist with a purpose. And between the highs and the lows, the ups and the downs, the good and the bad, the mercy and severity, our purpose still remains should we find the willingness to achieve it.
I looked up to the sky, where the woman had trained her eyes and thought again of the commission that had been put to me. I noticed for the first time that day how brightly the sun was shining, and that it truly was a brand new day. If it was really my purpose to write the world, I suddenly realized that I did, indeed, have the power to do it. I looked to my hands and considered the simple wisdom that David imparted to me and the magic it could conjure should I give its power over to the energy which gave my hands life.
It was there between the dancing dolphins and the spinning priestess that I committed to achieving my purpose.
This is an excerpt from How to Survive an Estralarian Mind Meld. Come back weekly for the next part or order your copy in ebook or paperback today!