This morning I was reflecting upon some of the haunting images that circle through my mind. The most haunting ones are around the pictures of the children I see who have been killed in the Gaza Strip in the past few days. These images in my mind are accompanied by the telling of the horror stories of war that I heard a few days ago as Syrian children shared what it is like for them trying to survive in their war torn land. I remember one little girl talking about the cat that she and the children with her had to slaughter to eat. She was very sad because the cat had become their friend prior to the slaughter.
Then there are the snapshots that I see as I drive downtown on any night of the week of the people wrapped in blankets sleeping in doorways and alleyways when they can find one that is inviting. When they cannot find one they simply make their bed on the street in the best place that can be found.
The most vivid image that comes to my mind is one that reminds me of the morning that I passed by one of the large stately church buildings on Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta and saw a man asleep on his cardboard bed on the steps. He had pulled off his shoes, as one does at bedtime.
Another haunting image is the scene that I have observed as folks on death row try to figure out how they might be able to get past the guard with a candy bar or small packs of salt and pepper after their visits. Of course, these items are considered contraband. I wonder why salt and pepper have gotten such a bad name?
A few days ago, I was downtown in the evening and was searching for a restroom. I spotted a Waffle House and chose to go there. As I walked up to the door, I saw the sign saying that their restroom was for “paying customers.” Of course I realize that this sign is mostly speaking to folks who are homeless and it is usually clear that I am not homeless. I asked to use the restroom and the young woman behind the counter hesitated. I made it clear that I would be happy to buy something if that was indeed the price that was necessary to use their restroom. But she told me that I did not need to buy anything because I could just give her a dollar. So I gave her a dollar and she pushed her little buzzer to open the door. How nice to have a dollar to pay for a toilet.
This practice, the folks sleeping on the streets and the dead children in Gaza are haunting, but I think that it is a good thing. There is the great temptation to travel in the safe circle of a country not at war and to think very little about what it means to be totally vulnerable. As I think about this, I think that it would be harder to experience not being able to keep my children safe than it would be to embrace my own lack of security.
I can scarcely imagine what it is like to live day after day not having any place to sleep except a doorway and having no restroom, nor a place to take a shower and having no safety. As I watch people with their backpacks walking the streets of Atlanta in search of a respite from walking and life on the streets, I am humbled by my blessings. You know the small ones that are so easy to take for granted such as shelter, relative safety, not living in a war zone and a clean restroom.
I am grateful for these haunting images.
This column by Catherine Meeks, Ph.D., appears twice monthly. Meeks is also a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. Email her at email@example.com.