“If someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, give them your cloak as well.”
When I was on the streets in Portland, I considered myself an urban forager. A lot of my days were spent rolling around the city pushing my shopping cart going through dumpsters and garbage cans looking for treasures and returnable cans and bottles.
One of my friends at Street Roots said, “John, man you are scary, a great big motherfucker, pushing a shopping cart around, talking to yourself.” This woke me up to the fact I talked to myself. I didn’t believe him at first, but one day I caught myself doing it and realized I had been mumbling to myself for about half an hour.
Once I got my dog Totes, well, he started to think garbage cans were where food came from. If I came out with just a bottle, he would get a look on his face like, “Hey wait a minute, where is my morsel?”
On one of my foraging adventures I found a couple of really nice scarves in a dumpster up by Portland State University. I had a Muslim buddy out there; tall, thin black fella from Africa. I think he existed on coffee and what he called ganja. Pot is easy to find in Portland and relatively cheap. He was always kind to me in a sort of way that wasn’t real. I mean he said the right words and stuff, but I got the impression it was a manipulation and that he really did not trust people.
At any rate he sees my scarves and wants one bad, I give it to him gladly if a little reluctantly, I liked them too you see.
I leave my cart outside of shelters and coffee shops when I go inside; there is nothing in it that I can not live without. One day I notice a pair of camo pants are missing. I cuss for a minute, I like the camos because of all the pockets and the loose fit, and then forget about it.
I roll into Street Roots one morning a while later and there is my Muslim friend wearing my pants. I react normally, “Hey motherfucker those are my pants.” Well he looks a little sheepish, pinned down and defiant at the same time. I think we had a little back and forth at that point, but I end up letting him keep the pants. Well he hugs me, gives me a kiss and tells everyone within ear shot, that I am the greatest man that ever lived.
We had a few more incidents like that, with me letting him steal stuff. Once he understood there would be no real retribution, well we became true friends. And a true friend is worth a thousand pairs of camo pants and a thousand scarves.
Practice Christ’s teachings folks, you may lose in the short run, but in the long run you will be blessed with the warmth of true friendship, more precious than gold if you ask me.
That is a picture of my dog Totes in my shopping cart.
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