Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Home is a Shopping Cart on the Streets

I visited with Alphonso more than most of the men and women I met on the street. He never drifted far from the place I found him the first time we met. I often stopped if I saw an empty parking place near his spot. He quickly recognized my car and would smile broadly when he saw me.

Alphonso kept an old desk chair in the little alcove of the front door at The Lunch Box CafĂ© on West Reno in Oklahoma City and spent almost every day sitting and watching the street pass in front of him. He kept his personal belongings in an old, rusty grocery cart with black plastic stretched snuggly over the top. 

Usually Alphonso waxed philosophical and talked at length when answering simple questions about his well-being. Living on the street for most of his 80-something years, both as an itinerate worker and a homeless person, he had seen and thought deeply on many of the issues we all ponder.

When my parents grew older, they often said they just slept better in their own beds, and they did not like to travel so far they had to spend the night in a strange room.  In the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey’s father talked about how it runs deep in each of us that we desire our own home and hearth, and George Carlin did an entire stand-up routine about “our stuff” and the importance of what we own and keep near us all our lives.

After a lifetime living on the street, Alphonso announced to me he was getting too old to live that life and must find a place of his own. He seemed shy to ask, but requested I take a picture of him with his “stuff” so he would always remember how it was living on the street.

No matter what our circumstances, no matter what our station in life, our own place, our own home, gives us a sense of security and belonging. I think the things we choose to keep around us, the things we tend to hold close, give us a sense of who we are. As much as Alphonso wanted off the street and under his own roof, even more so, he wished to recall that grocery cart full of his stuff and remember who he was when he lived on the street.

Words and Images by Al Griffin