A couple months ago I was having dinner in Boston with a friend and she said something that hit rather home.
"Jimmy, you're one step away from homeless."
She paused and added, "I guess we all are. I mean, I am too, but that's why I own 5 homes." We had a little laugh, but days later, I found myself thinking about what she said, and although I've never owned a home, I've never really felt without one.
I was walking to my apartment last Tuesday evening, and as I always do, I greeted a man who happened to be walking in the opposite direction.
Clearly, he had no home.
He looked like the actor Jason Lewis, from Sex in the City, and if he didn't have the authentic odor we all try to take a few steps away from that follows one without the luxury of a shower, I would've sworn it was Lewis doing research for a new role.
After all, I do live in LA...
I said "What's your name?"
He answered "Danny"
Seeing his condition and without thinking; I just blurted out "Danny! What's going on? What happened?"
He looked at me with a genuine smile, paused for a moment and simply said, "I honestly don't know."
I didn't hear his answer so much as I felt it. As a singer, it's pretty much the same answer I give to just about everyone who upon hearing me sing always asks, "Why haven't you made it?"
My most truthful response, maybe not always with the smile, is said simply, "I honestly don't know."
I asked Danny what he wanted and he said "A shower", then added "Oh, and some clean clothes..." I said "Well, I can get you some clothes, what would you like?"
He said very specifically, "a white t-shirt, a pair of underwear, and a sweatshirt if you have one."
I asked him to wait on a set of steps and I went inside to get his things. A few minutes later, I handed Danny the bag, which ironically was a 'gift bag' from some swanky party I'd attended. I said "You got one of my favorite sweatshirts in here Danny! Wear it well! And there's also some shampoo, deodorant, conditioner and soap for whenever you find that shower."
It was a brief encounter, these two ships in the night, but a genuine connection. I was with a kindred spirit, perhaps a reflection of my own self -- and when I hugged him goodbye, it didn't matter to me how bad he smelled, which he did. I felt in that moment, I was hugging God.
We walked our separate ways, and before going back into my apartment, I wiped a tear from my eye knowing I'd never forget him. I may never really know why I'm here, or what it all means in "the Big Picture," but I do know I will always treasure that moment.
It only dawned on me after the fact that it was the night before St Patrick's Day, and his name was Danny.
So whenever I find myself wanting to take a few extra steps away from that odor that visits those temporarily less fortunate, I hope I will take a step or two closer.
And should anyone ever ask why I would step closer to someone others would step away from, I hope I'll be able to smile as genuinely as "oh, Danny boy" did, and simply say:
"I honestly don't know."