Below is a piece that was written by a musician friend of mine who spent Christmas day and night on the streets of Lincoln, living as if he was homeless. When he sent me this writing, it was so powerful I immediately asked him if I could publish it.
I parked 2 blocks from the Lincoln bridge on 2nd and L. I had everything I felt I needed to last through the cold Christmas night.
It was about 8pm when I started my trek across Lincoln – I kneeled and said a quick prayer at my car asking God to guide me back to it safely once I was finished with my journey. I got to the bridge and found a piece of cardboard from a box perfectly shaped for my sign. I went back to the car to find a sharpie. On the way back, fully realizing what I was doing: walking back to my safe haven already.
I wrote on the cardboard piece ANYTHING YOU CAN SPARE. The other side I put GOD BLESS just in case if I didn't have the humility to just say "thank you" once they had given.
I made my way toward the bridge once again and began to walk across. I was thinking about how I should walk: should it be with a limp? Should I walk slowly, giving the feeling that I had no destination? I also thought a dazed and helpless look in my eyes could possibly pull off what I was going for. I decided to do all three, except for the limp. I got to 3rd street and I turned left – I was already feeling awkward and humiliated on such a busy street.
I walked a few blocks until I found the Grand Theatre. I knew that was a good spot to sit on a bench, play my ukulele, and leave a case open for anything to be given. I started to play and noticed how people ignored me. I wouldn't really make eye contact with them because of my own feeling of humiliation.
Young kids would talk louder to each other while walking by only to drown out the awkwardness of me sitting there.
That was the vibe I was catching - old folks whom I thought would have a bit more grace and compassion walked by me as if I wasn't even there... I was an outcast. A complete leper in their eyes.
In less than an hour, I began to feel worthless and humiliated. In frustration I packed my things and began to walk. I thought to myself that I wouldn't get the "full experience" unless I walked until I was exhausted. I nearly reached complete exhaustion on 25th street, and I found an underpass on antelope creek. I went down there and noticed the quietness of the creek so I began to walk on the sidewalk that led me to 27th street. I had no idea where I was going... just kept walking. I took a right on 27th where I walked past F street and found a bench I could sit on and rest.
I looked back at the Capitol building several times as my beacon to get back to downtown. It brought me comfort to look at it from time to time.
I got up and began to walk that direction. I found myself back at antelope creek just further south – I came across a man slipping on the ice near a tiny bridge over the creek. He looked at me and mumbled, " Merry Christmas..."
I said the same thing back and continued walking toward a street next to the creek.
I sat down to rest once again.
Just praying and listening to the cars pass by.
I began to walk and saw a gas station telling me the time. It was only 10:15pm and I felt I had been walking for much longer then that. I then went off east looking for O street once again while trying to find my underpass. I found it once again and also where I was going to call home for the night.
I laid down huddled by the wall. I rested my head on my ukulele case while I tried to shut my eyes. My mind began to wander and was lost more in daydreaming than actual sleep. I heard a tapping and dragging noise nearby – I was very startled and turned my head to see what it was. It was just trash scrapping across the concrete from the wind.
I curled back up facing the wall with my beanie over my eyes. I then prayed to God that he would keep me safe and let me last through the night with no harm.
My mind began to wander again through time and space and then...
...I woke up to the sound of a large truck passing over my head. I woke up alarmed and shivering from the cold. I got up quickly, gathered my things and looked up at the Capitol. I knew I needed to just get back to my car.
I started to do so and made it back to downtown Lincoln. I saw another building with the temperature and time rotating above the entrance and it said 2:00am 22F. I then realized that I actually fell asleep... until that moment I had no idea that I did. It felt as if I was in the underpass for no longer than half an hour – It turned out to be closer to 4 hours and I was quite surprised.
I kept walking down O street where I passed a large office building.
I looked to my left and noticed a pile of blankets and coats on a bench. There was also a chair with a trash bag tied on the leg next to it.
I looked for a moment longer and knew what I had run into: it was a homeless person in a tomb of blankets who managed to mummify himself in what had to of been twenty old coats.
This was the person I was looking for all night.
I couldn't even pick out a figure but I knew that someone was lying underneath all of that to stay warm. I quietly placed the money I had in my pocket on their camping chair.
I prayed for the person silently and left to find my car. Walking away from them I thought about my sign that I made at the beginning of the night.
ANYTHING YOU CAN SPARE.
It's exactly what I did for him, although no one did it for me.
I walked away saying GOD BLESS.
Drew Geiger, Christmas 2013