Last year my son and I worked at a farmers market twice a week selling herbs and tables from recycled wood. Farmers markets expose you to the most colorful people, especially in the city. There was a young farmer who’d micro dose daily before selling his vegetables, a CEO who’d stand at the flower booth to smell them his entire lunch break, homeless people sharing wisdoms for those who would listen, and endless others. We got to really see individuals in what people would normally brush off as a sea of sameness. My son was 4 and we loved it. He’d hold hands every Tuesday with a little girl whose parents were from France. They’d spend hours without breaking that hold and when she talked to him in that sweet French voice his whole face would smile.
My favorite person at market was a homeless man named William. He had a dog that didn’t move from his side. William was the first person I met the day we started. He couldn’t have been older than 40. He talked about computers to a point of passion that was over peoples head. He was probably called crazy all his life because of this. He knew exactly what he was talking about though. He had even been commissioned by a few business owners who then took advantage of his services, leaving him without pay. A lot of people do this to the homeless. He liked tech more than people. After everything he’d been through, you couldn’t blame him. Tech never hurt him. He walked with a limp often and held his bag defensively everywhere he went. I imagine he slept like this. Everything was tense. Everything was protetive. We’d wish each other a good day and go about our business but whenever he’d walk by it was like greeting family. He was the brightest of all the colorful people. On a rainy day when everyone was confined to our little tents I asked William if I could rub his feet. He looked like he was in pain and it was the only way I knew to help. He didn’t say a word, just sat down removing his boots and socks. He was a little embarrassed but didn’t hesitate. His feet were worn down. His toenails needed clipped which I imagine interfered with his alignment. It could have been the cause for his limp. I sat on a container in front of him and when I squeezed the first foot it felt like he sank into the ground entirely. His toes were completely blue because all he did was walk. Rubbing someones feet gives them restoration, even just for that few minutes. It’s the best way to see how much weight someone carries. This was the only time I saw his raised shoulders relax. He felt safe and that was like medicine for both of us. A few months before this he’d been beaten by strangers. He’d flinch when people past too fast because of this. Finding out how sharp people can be can stay with a person forever. Rubbing this mans feet was like serving a brother. He had more lessons than most people, yet most people didn’t even acknowledge he was there.
Those feet had walked overseas by orders, they’d walked through more states than he could remember. He never stopped walking. It was like he was in a rush to get to a home he didn’t have and away from things that could hurt him. That’s hard to do in a world where sharp people are everywhere. Hurt people hurt people and sharpness extends. Taking time to rub our own feet isn’t normal. Taking time for grace to rub a strangers feet is unheard of. We always talk about reaching down to pull somebody up but really all we need to do is reach over. We’re all brothers and sisters. We’re all hurting. William walked because that‘s all he could do and laying down to give up wasn’t an option. There’s something beautiful about that. A hope you don’t see anymore unless you look for it and lead in it. What if starting today, hurt people helped people? What if that’s how we find our salvation? Finding ourselves through serving others. Everybody talks about a shift right now and it’s more clear than ever that our world is deteriorating. What if this is a start toward fixing so many things that are broken? What if the step toward creating the first civilized civilization is just looking over and reaching out? Tiny drops of water accumulate fast. So do tiny gifts we give to each other without any expectations.