[Hpn] Was that an angel urinating, sleeping in the alley?;Column;Amarillo Globe-News
Morgan W. Brown
Wed, 12 Sep 2001 12:50:58 -0400
Monday, September 10, 2001
Amarillo Globe-News <http://www.amarillonet.com>
Horsley: Was that an angel urinating, sleeping in the alley?
By David Horsley
There's a homeless guy sleeping behind my house.
He arrives at dusk and is up and gone at dawn. Gone to where, I couldn't
A month or so ago, someone discarded an old mattress in the alley in such a
way that it lay in the path of traffic, and I, fearing the garbage truck
might be deterred by such an obstacle, dragged the mattress to one side and
folded it in half so it wouldn't take up so much space.
As it happened, the folded half didn't stay down. It raised itself up
against the fence, creating a pretty nice little sleeping area or padded
bench. It was a queen-size mattress with few stains.
Next thing I knew, empty beer cans and soft drink cups began to appear
beside the mattress. It was awhile before I put two and two together.
Then one morning I went early to the Dumpster and saw the guy sleeping. He
had long, scraggly hair and a ragged beard. He looked comfortable on the
queen-size mattress, sleeping as if God's in his heaven and all's right with
Still, part of me was outraged that a man would be sleeping in my alley. I
thought maybe I should call the police.
Another part of me thought: What harm is he doing?
A week or so passed, and I began to smell a slight urine odor in the alley.
It stood to reason that if the guy was drinking beer and sleeping among the
trumpet vines and nightshade, he wasn't hiking to the Amarillo Club to use
The conservative side of me disapproved of a stranger urinating in my alley
and wanted something done about the problem.
My liberal side reminded me that it wasn't too long ago that I used to whiz
in the woods. As usual, my liberal side won out.
The woods-whizzing happened during a period in my life when I supported my
family as a carpenter. A man hired me to help build a house in the woods
and, as soon as the septic system was installed, asked me not to use the
toilet unless absolutely necessary. In other words, please whiz in the woods
- that was his message.
It took awhile for a city boy like myself to grow accustomed to that, but
eventually I did and soon it felt weird to use indoor plumbing when there
were so many thirsty bushes outside.
So, contemplating the stranger urinating in my alley, I had to remind myself
that there's nothing intrinsically evil about that. He wasn't exposing
himself to children. He wasn't creating a nuisance. He wasn't stealing
anything or asking for a handout. He simply had found a comfort in what
surely was an otherwise sorrowful life and was taking advantage of it.
Still, my conservative side wanted to call the cops or at least phone the
city's heavy trash people and ask them to remove that mattress. No mattress,
no homeless guy - end of story.
My liberal side said: Hold the phone. It began to quote Scripture, something
my liberal side is fond of doing.
"For when I was hungry, you gave me food; when thirsty, you gave me drink;
when I was a stranger you took me into your home, when naked you clothed me.
When I was ill you came to my help, when in prison you visited me."
This, according to Matthew, was Christ himself talking.
Was it possible, I wondered, that this homeless guy urinating in the alley
was Christ in disguise? What did men do along the shores of Galilee when
they needed to relieve themselves? Was I entertaining an angel unawares?
Looking at the situation with somewhat different eyes, I imagined that the
advent of this bearded stranger was Christ's arrival in our city. He roamed
the alleys and shelters of our town, sleeping on sand burrs and eating out
of Dumpsters. He was mostly invisible.
Then one happy day, he found a decent mattress on which to lay his weary
head. It wasn't new, but it was a sight better than what he'd had and plenty
good enough for a vagabond. As he had done long ago, he quietly made his
home in an unexpected place.
And what did I want to do? Have the mattress removed by the proper
authorities, sending Christ back to the thorns?
Instead, I took a cup of coffee to the alley one morning. I really didn't
think the homeless guy was Christ, but why take a chance?
"Anything you did for one of my brothers here, however humble, you did for
He politely declined the coffee, saying that he was on his way to a place
where he received breakfast.
"I have food that you know not of," whispered my Bible-quoting side.
This evening before writing these words, I took two bottles of imported beer
to the alley, resolved to sit with the stranger and listen to his story.
The alley was silent and dark. The mattress was empty.
David Horsley can be contacted in care of the Amarillo Globe-News, P.O. Box
2091, Amarillo, Texas 79166, or email@example.com. His column appears
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Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA
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