The Homeless Nun

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The Homeless Nun

For years she frequented the coffee shop. Long dark hair, occasionally tied up under a scarf. Long white shirt tightly buttoned up to the very top. Black sweater and a jacket much like a nun would wear. And a long black skirt down to her ankles. She pulled a little suitcase on wheels behind her wherever she went. And most conspicuous was the large crucifix she carried in her left hand.  A representation of Jesus in full passion pose on a simple wooden cross. Whereas some would hang such an art piece on a wall, she pressed it closely against her chest and closed her eyes. I assume she prayed much of the time.

I never heard her utter a single word to me or anyone. She always seemed pleasant, giving an aura of peace to the café. At times she would give a few coins to the cashier for anyone who was thirsty and couldn’t afford a drink.

Sitting on my regular stool at the cash register on the book side one evening, I was lost in grieving thoughts that usually darkened my mind when I am alone in the quiet. Then I heard singing at the grand piano in front of the store. Beautiful singing. A familiar song from the Sound of Music movie. It spoke to my disquieted soul.

Needless to say, I was shocked to see the homeless nun standing with one hand on the piano and the other holding her ever present cross. She sang every song from the movie. She sang Edelweiss twice. When she began another verse of the song, she abruptly stopped and glided back to her regular table. She bowed her head and closed her eyes.

I didn’t know if I should clap or not. The whole seven years I worked at the bookstore I never heard her say another word and as far as I know she didn’t do another impromptu performance.

You know, I tell many stories and some of them feature the homeless. It is not that they are the only people to write about. But they are people in difficult circumstances doing sometimes the best they can and as such garner my interest and respect.

I remember one homeless friend tell me that there are rules in their “society.” One of their unwritten laws is that, “you must work for what you receive.” If you sit on a bench with a sign saying “homeless,” and take money from others it is considered panhandling and frowned upon. They treat those who do that with contempt as though they are thieves. They have a code of honor.

One woman from Italy sold words. She gave someone the Italian word for whatever the “customer” asked. Another did fantastic artwork. I remember giving him some paper to help him out.

Everyone unfortunately think that the indigent are out to get things from others for nothing. As if they say, “I need money for the bus,” when they are only going to go to the liquor store to get their next drink.  We turn up our nose when we see them and like the Un-good Samaritans walk on by.

But I have watched those who stand outside the pizza shop by the trash bin where the shop puts all the left over pizza at closing time. Then they go across the street where a restaurant puts day-old donuts out on a table. And I see them show gratitude. And I see them share.

One couple, who was “street married” (which means you say you are married, and you are) earned their money to pay for a hotel room so she didn’t have to spend the night on the cold hard ground. My heart goes out to them. People are People. I pray that as I write about their differences that I do so with respect and am not having fun at their expense.

Often I hoped that when the Homeless Nun prayed, she prayed for me… as I should pray for her. Did she know that I needed that calming voice the night she sang? I’ve never forgotten it.

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Always the Correct Answer

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Always The Correct Answer

Third row.

Seven from the front.

Dullest teacher this side of parent’s lectures.

Sleeping is your main objective this class period.

You deserve it.

Gym class.

Found your tennis shoe floating face down in the toilet!

Stomp-sloshing to class.

The teacher won’t notice the puddles.

Some have learned the skill of sleeping eyes-open.

You, however, have your books situated strategically.


About to save the world from an avocado something-or-other.

Was that your name?

Jumping up.

Losing your balance.

The circus has come to town.

You’re the main clown.

The general trick after all the commotion –

Not to mention the snickering-

Is to regain some composure.

“Can you repeat the question?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand the question.”

Good answers

Except in extreme cases

Where the teacher asked,

“What animal wears a cowbell?”

You counter.

“You mean me?”

But, invariably this happens

When it really was someone else.

Ahh, but you are wiser than your teachers.

The best response is an intellectual jumble of words

That never make sense.

But, boy, do they sound good.

Standing tall.

Shoulders thrown back.

Eyeglasses balanced.

Note: if no eyeglasses,

Borrow someone elses.

They’re asleep

And don’t need them anyway.


“In due response of the heretofore query thus presented, I can veritably state that the lower left cerebrum is incapable of collaborating with the maxilla and mandible, thus disabling the vocal chords to respond with an optimistic rhetoric upon this subject.”

Deep breath.

Question answered sufficiently.

Teacher is proud to have such a smart,

Articulate student in the class.

Hard to swallow.

They know you’re bluffing.


“…and feeling a delicacy in articulating the nebular hypothesis of the truth, I find difficulty in prevaricating the nonverisimlitudinarianistic equatorial dissertation thus exasperated.”

Big word.

Teacher asks,

“What does all that mean?”

Sleepily reply,

“I don’t know and I ain’t gonna lie about it.”

And you’ll be exactly right.











Categories: humor Poetry

A Humbled Chicken

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A Humbled Chicken…

A man once introduced me as “the most humble man he knows.” It made me feel uncomfortable and only brought to mind all my sins just before I was about to preach.

I remembered the time I was the Youth Pastor where the Pastor decided to have an attendance contest. The Youth Department verses the adults. The loser would be honey and feathered. I lost.

Placed forcefully in the bed of a truck they poured honey, molasses, and syrup over me. Then came the feathers. Everyone laughed. I laughed, pretending it was fun. When I thought it was over, the truck started, and I was driven throughout the town while the driver of the truck honked the horn.

In the book, Leading with a Limp, Dan Allender says, “No one is humble by nature…. Humility comes from humiliation, not from the choice to be self-effacing or a strong urge to give others the credit. Humility that has not come from suffering due to one’s own arrogance is either a pragmatic strategy to get along with others or a natural predilection that seems to befit only a few rare individuals. For most leaders, humility comes only by wounds suffered from foolish falls.” (p69-70)

That man who introduced me never saw my failures that still—to this day—haunt me.

Today, I am writing a scene where a man is reminded of his sins, yet still has to be responsible for someone else’s irresponsible behavior.  He fears the future actions of another while regretting his own actions of the past. In other words, he tries to control a lighted keg of dynamite when he wants to explode. How does a man respond to that kind of stress? One man is humbled, shaped by the failures of his past; the other is prideful and oblivious to his sin.

In my day to day humiliations I wonder, which man am I?

Homeless Mozart

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There were many interesting people who came into the Christian bookstore where I worked. I tried to be kind to everyone and found myself pulling stories out of them.

Sometimes someone came in crying. “My husband just committed adultery. I don’t want to get a divorce. Is there a book that can help me?”

Or someone came in searching. I loved helping them find their very first Bible. And there was always visitors from out of town that had interesting stories.

I’ll never forget the day after Valentine’s day when a famous basketball coach came in looking for a card for his wife—a day late!

“I’m sorry,” I said, “The lady employees put those cards up right after the 14th.” Perhaps they did that because they knew that no man EVER would buy a Valentine’s Day card after Valentine’s day.

He found a generic card, paid for it in cash, and rushed out.  

As usual, some of the most memorable people were the ones that were unusual. One homeless man used to come in and ask to play the piano. He played very loud and I had to ask him to stop playing as I was afraid that he would break the instrument. I remember one day he came in dressed only in a dirty white t-shirt one size too small and white cut off sweat pants. He had flip-flops on his white sock feet. He told me that the place he was staying finally put in a toilet. He was so happy that when he asked to play the piano, I let him. Of course, I told him that he needed to play softly because there were students studying in the coffee shop.

I unlocked the grand piano and he sat down.

Classical music is my go to music. Tchaikovsky is my favorite. Swan Lake is my favorite music off all time. When he began to play Mozart, I stood behind him quite impressed. Then he suddenly stopped.

“No. That’s not right,” he said, shaking his head back and forth, while he scratched his behind. After a loud “Humph,” he began the same symphony again…Symphony No. 40 in g minor… IN A DIFFERENT KEY!

NOTE: I really don’t know the name of the music. I just googled Mozart and chose one of his most recognizable masterpieces.

Did you hear me? He played it again in a different Key. Then he abruptly stopped in the middle and said, “That’s wrong.” He squeezed his eyes shut for what seemed the longest time.

I held my breath.

“It should be like this,” he declared, and played the piece in the same key, however different in several places. As I watched and listened, I realized that as unbelievable as it seemed, he was rewriting Mozart! When he finished, there were several students in the coffee shop who applauded.

After the concert he stood, and I locked the piano once again.  We both walked together to the counter where I stood behind the cash register.

Out of breath he leaned in and said, “Did you know that the aliens from Saturn sent me a message last week?”

“No, do tell.”

He moved his hand over the other in a broad circle. “Y’know the rings are like a record.”

“Un huh.”

“And NASA sent up the spaceship Cassini, right?”

I nodded.

“Well, it glanced along the rings like a needle on a record…and they sent me a message!”

Now you know what I was thinking. The same thing you are thinking. So, I whispered to him, “What. Did. They. Say?”

He leaned in closely and whispered back, “I. Can’t. Tell. You.”

Well, of course, it was a message to him. Not a message to the world. We said goodbyes and before he left, he turned around and said to me, “You are only the twenty-third person I have ever told about this.”

After he left, I changed the store’s overhead music to “Mozart for Learning.” And… I listened for a message from Saturn.

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I don’t have to be good.


I don’t have to be good.

In my long-legged life I have met some extraordinary people. One that always amazed me was a Japanese woman who would come into the coffee shop to study. She was working on her doctoral dissertation and enjoyed the atmosphere.

Probably the first time I noticed her was when she went to the ladies restroom. As she opened the door, the barista called out, “The light switch is on the outside of the room.”

The woman walked into the dark and closed the door—without turning on the light! I was concerned that she had not heard the warning. Before I could get to the other side of the room to turn on the light, she exited. It was then I noticed her dog. Her seeing-eye dog. She didn’t need the light because she had been blind from birth.

That first day after introductions, I said, “I bet you save a lot of money not needing to turn on the lights at your home.”

“Oh no, quite the contrary. Turning on the lights is the first thing I do when I walk in.”

I gave her a puzzled look even though she couldn’t see it. “Why is that?”

“Well, I don’t need the light. But robbers need the dark.”

She went on to explain that she could tell when a light is on as she enters a room. “It feels different. It hums.”

I closed my eyes and tried to listen for the lights. But I didn’t hear anything but the espresso/cappuccino machine as it frothed milk for a customer.

As she sat at the table, laptop open, dog always at her side, we became friends. I always enjoyed talking with her.

I was not the only one who didn’t notice she was blind. One evening as the store was about to close, as young man approached her and said, “It is dark outside and the alley way this time of night always has unsavory characters. Would it be okay if I walked you to your car?”

Without skipping a beat, she replied, “I didn’t drive tonight. And I already have a ride home. Thank you though.” She usually took the bus to her apartment. The young man kindly told her goodnight, yet left somewhat rejected by the woman he was hitting on.

She laughed. “Didn’t he see my dog?”

One slow evening, while I was bored at the cash register on the book side of the store, she approached me.

“Hello, Oklahoma.” Not her real name, I couldn’t pronounce her real name. That was close enough. She always knew me from my voice. Maybe my smell too.

Holding out her cell phone she asked me to take a picture of her for social media. Someone had sent her a shirt and she wanted to show them she had received it. A conversation ensued about her loving to take photos. Someone would say, “Wow, what a beautiful sunset!” She would take a picture of it and post it online asking people to describe it. Sometimes she aimed incorrectly and missed the sunset. Her friends were always honest with her. She loved posting pictures of the meals she had made. She was a good cook.

“I like trying things sighted people do,” she said.

Probably the most unique thing she showed me was a picture of her doing archery in medieval period costume! I found it funny that she chose the Age of Enlightenment. She belonged to a LARPing group in the area. Live Action Role Playing. The picture showed several arrows on a target.

“Are those your arrows?”

She nodded.

“How do you know where to shoot? Is there a bell or tone sound on the target?”

“Oh no,” she said, “I listen to where the other archers hit the target with their arrows, and I aim for that sound. I don’t have to be good. They do.”

The day we said goodbye was a sad day. From her strength and good humor, as well as her excellent attitude toward her “handicap,” she always encouraged me. Some day I plan on shooting a bow and arrow. I’m going to close my eyes and see how I do. Please dial 911 before I start that.

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