A homeless woman lives around our neighborhood. She usually smiles when people walk by. One day she sang a lullaby.
Hawaii is a paradise for the homeless. Mild weather does not discourage those down on their luck from plying the streets through the day, taking comfortable refuge in a park at night.
Our neighborhood homeless woman does not appear to be middle aged yet. Despite the need to forage for food, she’s put on a few pounds in recent years. She has a cherubic face, which smiles when she acknowledges people, but her eyes are wistful, lonely, distant, yet hopeful.
As is the case with many in our homeless population, she has a large shopping cart from a nearby grocery store. The cart is loaded with the belongings that the homeless seem to cherish; extra clothing, shoes, a plastic covering to keep out the rain, rope, strings.
During a morning walk I saw her a block away, sitting in the shade on the steps of a Buddhist temple a few blocks from my home, her cart by her side. She was leaning back against the steps as if recently awakened but not yet ready to move down the street.
As I came near I could see her face clearly in the morning sun. She was singing a childhood lullaby. Her eyes met mine as if to acknowledge my presence, yet she continued to sing; a happy, pleasant, peaceful childhood melody which wholly reflected the expression on her face. For that moment she appeared happy and content. Yet, there she was– homeless; all her worldly belongings stacked in a shopping cart borrowed from a food store.
I’m not sure if my mother sang lullabies to me when I was a child, and I would be hard pressed to remember the lyrics even if she did. Here was a homeless woman, living beside all her worldly possessions, recalling the lyrics and melody of a lullaby from her childhood, and for that moment, she was not saddened by the cruelty of life, the harshness of her situation; only comforted by the soothing words a mother sings to a child.
I see her in the neighborhood occasionally, struggling to push her cart’s burden down the sidewalk. Her eyes still glisten, a faint smile on her lips as I walk by. I know that behind those distant eyes, somewhere deep inside, tucked into a safe place in her heart, is the childhood song sung by a homeless woman; a song of peace and happiness.