The streets were baron. It was below freezing in temperatures. Snow flakes turned his brown beard into the resemblance of Santa Claus. An empty shadow followed him with each footstep he took.
Ricky was headed toward the park. This is where most folks went when they didn’t have a home to go to. It was a bad snow storm and visibility was difficult with the constant flakes hitting his eye lashes.
He had a view of glowing embers. Shadows standing around drums with flames bouncing wildly giving heat to anyone daring to get close enough. A little extra walking time and soon he was intertwined with others who recognized him and waved to him with tattered gloves and ragged coats.
This group of people were known to the town as the homeless. The people too lazy to get a job, the ones considered drifters and bag people. People cast off smiles and friendly gestures. Turning their faces a way not wanting to confront to know the truth.
When Ricky got his fingers warmed and his toes thawed, he went to his secret place and pulled out his easel and his bag of brushes. He went to the one place where his paints were hidden and kept safe.
He had made friends with some of the homeless and was lucky enough to keep his supplies in one person’s tent. He set up his canvas and he painted. Ricky had always had a hidden talent for art.
No one really paid much attention to him or his work. Ricky didn’t peddle on the streets like some did. He was too proud to beg for money for any reason. He stayed in the shadows and drew images in his mind of people and animals. Beauty of foliage was what he liked best to look at.
He took his memories and transformed them to his board. Using his brushes he revisited his view to canvas or paper. He scoured trash bins and any place that he could find something to paint on.
He went to the dumpsters behind paint and hobby stores and rummaged looking for supplies. After doing this several times he had managed to tuck a tidy kit for himself.
As he stood painting others drew near and watched. Fingers pointed at spots that stood out. Words of encouragement were given. Each painting that he finished he gifted to one of his friends.
Tonight was no different. The scenario was the same but the art was different. A lovely vision of snow falling on the streets of this small town was transformed into what the people watching thought to be his best work yet.
When Ricky finished, one of the guys asked for the painting, instead of waiting to see who he was going to pass it to. Ricky handed it to him and began to clean up his area. He put everything back in its place.
He came back and stood around the fire. The guy who took his painting brought him a cup of steaming hot coffee. ” You know, your work is really good. You shouldn’t keep it hidden for only our eyes to see. You should show it around, let someone pay you for this.”
” Maybe some day I will, but I got to get cleaned up first. You know presentable. No one wants to stand around the likes of me.” Silence fell around the drum as everyone who was listening knew there was some truth to what Ricky said.
Night after night the same happened. Tonight was Christmas though. Some of these folks had pings of pain in their hearts as they relived memories of what their lives had been once before. In the near distance sounds of Christmas songs could be heard from some of the fellows.
There are all types of reasons for being homeless. It isn’t just because people are lazy. Sometimes luck just isn’t on our side. Or an illness comes and wipes out all of our dreams.
This was the case for Ricky. He had worked at one time in a small factory. Only about ten employees. But one day things got tough and the business had shut down. Ricky learned quickly that his careless ways of not saving money wasn’t going to save him now.
It didn’t take long at all for Ricky to get to know this group of people. Every one had a story to tell. Most would do what it took to change things but there had to be a beginning, a place to start, and this was the biggest challenge, but some did make it. They were able to leave the circle and move forward once again.
For Ricky he dreamed. He dreamed and painted, but was too shy to spread his talent. All he knew how to do was follow orders. All he thought he had to offer was the work he turned over to his boss. In return he got a small check, big enough to tide him over until the next pay-day.
About a week later after that guy took Ricky’s painting, he walked towards Ricky when he saw him coming near the barrels. He pulled on his coat and motioned for him to follow him to a more private spot to talk.
” Ricky, I hope you don’t mind, but I showed your painting to a man who is a friend of a friend of one of the guys here. He really liked it and he wanted me to get a hold of you and ask you if you could come see him.”
” Oh I couldn’t do that. Look at me, look at the way I look. No one wants to talk to a bum. I would need a bath and some clean clothes.” The other man listened to him and then walked a way.
The next evening came and as the group were warming themselves the same guy came and pulled on Ricky’s coat. ” Come with me.” Ricky didn’t really know what to think but he did trust this guy, so he followed. A couple of other fellows fell in line and the small group of them walked back into the residential area.
The walked up to the front door and Ricky stopped, asking, ” What are we doing here man? I don’t know anyone who lives here and I am not about to start breaking into homes.”
” Take it easy Ricky. We aren’t here to hurt you. We are here to help you. Now trust me, you always say you trust me, so do it now.” Ricky looked into the guys eyes and didn’t feel any fear rising inside. He allowed the guy to ring the doorbell and when it opened he looked into the eyes of a warm glow and a smiling face. Welcoming the trio into his home he led them to an office.
Once inside the office a barber appeared with scissors, and a grooming kit. He led Ricky to a chair and before long Ricky was transformed from a scary looking fellow to a face of nice brown eyes and a square jaw line.
After this task was completed the gentleman who let them in his home took Ricky to another room where on the bed lay a couple of outfits. Nothing special, just some jeans and flannel shirts, shoes and clean socks.
” I took the liberty of getting a couple of different sizes here according to what your friend here has told me. Take these and go in the bathroom and try them on. Which ever one fits you best you can have.”
Tears welled in Ricky’s eyes. He hadn’t been shown this kind of kindness in so long. Without saying a word he did as he was instructed and soon came out. He didn’t look like the same man who entered.
The guys all smiled and patted each other on the back for jobs well done. ” Meet the guy Ricky. Don’t be afraid of fear. You have let fear take over your life way too long.” Ricky hugged the guy and they were all escorted to the front door.
Walking back to the circle of lights whistles were heard as people were letting Ricky know they approved. Ricky went to the tent and took off these nice clothes and slipped into his comfort zone.
In two days a meeting had been set up between Ricky and the man who liked his paintings. Ricky carefully put the new clothes back on and cleaned himself up good as he could. The meeting was in half an hour. There weren’t many people here to see him off as it was daylight. Most were out scrounging for supplies for that night. But the ones who were here wished him good luck.
Ricky knocked on the big wooden door and it was opened by a professional looking gentleman. He grasped Ricky’s hand in a firm handshake and motioned for him to sit down. He offered Ricky a cup of coffee and then went straight to the point of this meeting.
” I like your work Ricky. Your friend was nice enough to bring some other pieces that you had given to people here for me to view. You shouldn’t be giving this kind of talent a way my friend. You should be paid for such great work. What do you think about working for me? You see behind that door over there, leads to a store front that holds different pieces of art for sale. I would like to place yours right up front. I have no doubt you and I can make some good money. Get your name around, get you off the streets, make you famous. I live upstairs in this building and I can have an extra small bed brought in for you. I think you have great talent and I want to help you get it out there. Will you let me help you Ricky?”
Ricky once again felt hot tears fill his eyes. He didn’t know what to say, he sat there speechless. His dream, the recurring visions of being a known artist were staring him right in the face.
The guy stood up and came over and pulled Ricky to his feet. The two looked at each other and the guy hugged Ricky. ” It’s going to be alright. You deserve this. Let’s get your stuff here and get to work. I will get that bed called in.”
Ricky stood back and shook the guys hands. All he could manage to get out of his mouth was thank-you, thank-you. Thank-you for helping me.”
” It’s alright Ricky. All of us need a little luck on our side, even I did one day.”