Years ago an unimportant and diffident man was giving a tour of a homeless shelter—of which he was manager. Requests for tours were not overly frequent and they could be pleasant, and the guests were often interesting—which always made the man question his own credibility and worth. Still, his tendency toward introversion and his perpetual hope for a day on his own terms often caused him to feel ambivalent about the tours.
On this particular occasion, as he was walking down the hall leading his guests through the shelter’s medical dorms, explaining, as he always did, the dimensions of the work, the problems of poverty and mental illness and addictions and abuse associated with those living in the dorms, Mr. Fond came shuffling down the hall. As usual his pants were gathered at the front, held up by and one clutching arthritic fist, and his shoes were loose with laces dragging. For a moment Mr. Fond’s eyes searched the tour guide’s eyes—who knew what was wanted. But time taken to lace up his shoes would be a waste; he would soon have them untied, sloppy-loose and would return to shuffling. And so the tour-leader, who was conscious of appearance and wary of spectacle, and able to define the nuances between the two, resolved to smile, greet Mr. Fond, and politely yet efficiently continue his tour without interruption.
But as these two minor bodies closed distance, our man of moral lassitude was nevertheless unable to pass by. And so he stopped. And as he knelt before Mr. Fond, catching the miasma of blotched and liniment-chafed flesh; and as he raised the crusted cuffs of the pants, taking the flat-frayed and soiled laces in his hands, crossing and looping the ends into a double knot; and while feeling the sting of embarrassment from what he thought must be the indulgent glances of the dignitaries standing off to the side, he felt within his solar-plexus a small warm growing thing. It was like a malleable ball of desire deep in the centre of his nervous system that continually changed shape from Mr. Fond, to himself, to the well-appointed noblesse, and back again.
Now he liked this himself-but-not-exactly-himself feeling, and being the selfish sort he wondered how to keep it, own it perhaps—this “it” that now, sitting back at his desk and staring into the glass-brick window, still felt sweet and pleasant, like mulled wine pooling at the pit of his stomach.
And as he stared, seeing dimly through the clouded glass, thinking he saw that bright yellow ball of desire—within or without he didn’t know—his teetering mind fell to reflect upon the occurrences carried out daily by heart-filled workers and volunteers at shelters and hospices and homes and streets around the world—habits of millions of ordinary humans. And he opened to the thought that this “it” was the natural, renewable, waiting-to-be-discovered desire at the centre of every-body and so could hardly be something kept, held or owned, but was always moving, shifting and weaving. Always and everywhere stopping and stooping and kneeling in the name of Jesus, in the name of Allah, in the name of Nothingness, in the name of human kindness, in the name of the Creator, in the name of Kookoomis Manitou Muskwa, in the name of the one Spirit, which is of one genus, which is love.