We are messengers, and we don’t know why. We walk through the streets, carrying a message we can’t understand. It doesn’t matter how many times we try to read it; our understanding never increases. All we can do is be mindful of its existence and hope that someone will pick it up. Passersby notice us from time to time but they just hurry past with their heads down or eyes glued to their phone screens. They’re not interested in what we have to say because they think this message has nothing for them.”
String of Thoughts: The Messengers – Selfless Servants?
String of thoughts when walking around downtown Toronto one Sunday afternoon . I saw one of the many homeless people in Toronto, sitting on a bench. I stopped to say hello and noticed that he had what looked like an old library book with him. As we talked about his life as someone who spends most of their time living outside, it started raining so we parted ways but I took note where he was sitting because there were no bookshelves around us at all.
So this morning when my commute brought me back downtown again, I decided to go find out if the same man was still there – after all, how long can anyone really hangout near Nathan Phillips Square? Sure enough he showed up right away! It turns out that before yesterday’s meeting we never actually exchanged names or any other information for fear we might never see each other again.
We talked about how we both like to read and he shared that his library book, one of the few possessions he has with him when living on the street, was a copy of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway which I had just finished reading not too long ago! At this point it started raining so we parted ways but there were no bookshelves around us at all today either – talk about synchronicity :)
So in bringing my attention back to the bibliophiles who are often overlooked by our society, it gave me pause for thought: as someone who spends most their time being an introvert (someone people generally ignore), maybe it’s okay if we spend some time giving attention to people who are often overlooked, even just in our thoughts.
The homeless person I saw today was a stranger but in this time of introspection and gratitude for what we have instead of the normal “I’m thankful for my family” or “my house,” maybe it’s okay if these days we think about those on the fringes too they might be messengers that remind us that no one is alone.
Maybe it’s ok
It made me sad when I realized how many bookshelves there were around me yet not once did any bibliophile come up to ask where their beloved book had gone as if they knew with certainty that all must be well at home. Pushing further down into the depths, I found a place for all my books and then the questions came to me.
What is this space of peace we find in our own personal libraries? What draws us in to roam upon these shelves so lovingly crafted with the intent that we might know what it feels like to be surrounded by those who love us most? Is it comfort we’re searching for, an escape from reality or something more akin to enlightenment where we can learn about ourselves as much as anything else on these pages?
I was never good at history class but there among all the stories of warring world leaders, dictators whose lives were darkened by their thirst for power and absolute control over others lay a small slip of paper with one name written across the surface.
It said “Annie” and there was nothing more to it or behind the paper than a small hole in which I could slide my finger into, but for one moment I felt as if Annie was speaking right from those pages with care placed around her like an invisible cloak.
I wonder now that we are so much closer to these stories than ever before whether our lives will become something symbolic of their own? If we find ourselves lost in this space between private thoughts and public words where anything is possible, what then becomes of us? Does accepting the humanity within all people change who we were meant to be? Have we found peace by coming together under banners made up of personal truths rather than national ones? Or does only the written word set us free?
I have no idea what the future holds for me, but I know that writing things down is at least a start.
“There was nothing more to it or behind the paper than a small hole in which I could slide my finger into.” This line from Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life always reminds me of how writers’ talents are so often overlooked and sometimes underestimated because we do not see through them as well as they can see through others. We never will be able to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes like this sentence does but maybe we don’t need to anymore.