An Unlikely Friendship

My friend Bob and I playing with the camera on my cell phone
My friend Bob and I playing with the camera on my cell phone

My friend Bob lives in the parkiing lot of the Salvation Army building in Downtown Los Angeles. When in rains, he sleeps under the freeway bridge. For the past four years, I saw Bob 5 days a week on my way to and from work. That's more frequently that I see members of my family sometimes.

He sits in his wheelchair on Figueroa Street greeting everyone that passes him. "It's a beautiful day in L.A.!" "What did you think about the game last night?" "I like your earrings." He's never down, and he never asks for money. He just greets people. Some drop money in his cup, some make no eye contact and keep walking. And then others like me will stop and talk to him.

I've learned a lot from Bob over the past several years. I've learned about sharing, about faith, about survival on the street. Through the most difficult times, Bob has maintained his positivity. I love that about Bob.

Since the new year began, I've switched to taking public transportation, and this means that I haven't been able to see Bob on a daily basis since Christmas. Last week, as I was walking back from lunch with my coworkers,he was there on the street...and I have to tell you, it was quite a reunion. And just like friends do, we had to spend some time catching up. He remembered that my mom is thinking of moving in with me; and that my husband and I were awaiting the birth of our first grandchild. I told him all about her, out sweet little grandbaby and our trip to Chicago. And then he asked, "do you have any pictures?" I pulled out my camera to show him the photos I had taken. And then I said, "Bob, let's take a picture together." I turned the setting to face us, so he could see himself on the screen. He wasn't too happy - "I look like a troll." He laughed. "No," I said, "you look like my friend." We smiled for the camera. I promised to come over his way at least once a week to visit. "I miss talking to you," we told each other.

Yesterday, the weather report said it was going to be 80 in the city. So I ran out of the house with just a very thin jacket. Needless to say, the report was wrong and I was cold. And the on the bus ride home, the driver had the air on all the way. I was freezing. As I sat there shivering, I thought about the fine line between being comfortable and miserable. A jacket was all it would take to someone who was shivering from the cold. Something so simple and attainable, yet, for so many on the street, that jacket is a luxury. My situation was easily remedied as soon as I got off the bus and walked home. I am blessed to have a sweater.

Having a friend like Bob has opened my eyes and my heart to our homeless population. I am working to help the homeless of our city. I am blessed to have Bob as my friend. He has taught me so much...but there's still so much to learn.

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