We weren't talking much, just making some casual couple chitchat about how this time last year, we were walking across a bridge in San Juan, Costa Rica—yes, it was this day, wasn't it, September 2nd, our first morning waking up together in another country, getting up and going out to explore a new neighborhood in a new place where we could hardly speak any of the native language, and wasn't that just the most magical adventure on earth. Neither of us could've ever imagined taking a vacation like that in our past lives, but we did it, this time last year, and we'll never stop remembering it.
Then we rounded a corner, coming up on the embankment under one of the bridges, and I saw the middle aged woman with her dirty jeans pulled down to her knees, relieving herself against a black iron fence in plain view of the walking path. I said, "Is she doing what I think she's doing?"—because if she was, I didn't want to interrupt. Let the woman have her dignity, before she knew we'd seen her.
I listened for any particular stirring in my heart, and all I heard at the moment was a hope that these folks were finding some rest, some peace, from the burdens of their day. And I thought how bitterly ironic, all the time and effort and resources that went into the hotel properties across the river, while these folks sleep here on the concrete under the bridge, only a few hundred feet away without a pillow for their heads.
As we neared the street, we saw a small, unshaven older man (somewhere between 65 and 95, by my calculations) in a wheelchair on the sidewalk, one pantsleg tied in a knot at the point where his knee would be, if he had both legs. The man was just turning himself around to roll back up the sidewalk in the same direction we were heading, and our leisurely velocity brought us abreast with him in a matter of moments. The man and I glanced sideways at each other, and I smiled a little, and he smiled back. My husband asked, "Wanna race?" The man broke into a grin and, apparently having misheard, responded, "It's not bad, as long as the sun's out."
We nodded, smiling, and we were about to go on our way when the man asked, "Hey, you wouldn't happen to have a cigarette on you?"
"No, I don't," my husband replied, semi-apologetically. He and I quit smoking on the same day, back on November 8th of 2011, the year we were both just starting to put our lives back together. Reaching into his pocket, he added, "But I've got a couple of bucks."
"Do you?" the man asked eagerly, then hesitated as my husband held out a small fold of bills. "Hey, man, I'm not asking for money," he said, reaching for the money.
"I know," my husband said, pressing the cash into the man's palm. I said, "Have a good day," as my husband took my hand, and we kept walking. The sun was shining. It was a beautiful day. We didn't say anything about it; we didn't need to. We both know it's only by the grace of God that we get to sleep in our own home tonight. Not so many years ago, at different times in different places, we were the ones trying to get some sleep while the rest of the world strolled by, thinking about shopping lists and commenting on the architecture.
So I mourned a bit, for what was and what should be. I enjoyed the sun on my face and the breeze at our backs. I thanked the Lord in my heart for the quiet rays of light that shine from my husband like bursts from the clouds some days, and my husband squeezed my hand as if he'd heard.