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The Visitor--an inspirational short story series

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"...Choose only entertainment and media that uplift you. Good entertainment will help you to have good thoughts and make righteous choices...Do not participate in entertainment that in any way presents immorality or violent behavior as acceptable."
For The Strength of Youth

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The Visitor--an inspirational short story series
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The Visitor--an inspirational short story series
    Ch. 44 The Wisdom of the Wise
 
Submitted by Steven ODell on 12 January 2009 - 3:51pm.

Homeless
Steven G. O'Dell © 2008

The weather had become miserable in a hurry. Even a light rain was painful when temperatures reached the low forties. Especially so when one lacked clothing adequate to protect from the elements. Dennis found himself in just such a situation. It was hard to believe that just a short two years before he had been in a six-figure-a-year job and drove a car that cost more than most people's homes. Then the drinking began. It had been just over business lunches at first. That was enough to begin a fast, downward spiral that ended with Dennis becoming unemployed, broke and homeless. His severe depression had finished what the drinking had begun. Add to that a strong lesson on the meaning of the term 'fair weather friends' and you have some idea of his predicament.

Dennis found himself huddling and shivering under the inclined open lid of a dumpster in an alley behind a store in the business district. He had intended to search the dumpster, before it rained, for anything of use. Now all he could do was wait for the rain to stop and hope that nothing he needed would be too wet to use when it was over.

“Mind if I join you? It's pretty wet out here.”

Dennis jumped in surprise. The male voice seemed out of place, especially since no one had spoken more than a few words to Dennis in months. It seemed that he was nearly invisible—or at least most folks wished he were.

“Sure. Come on in.” He hoped this new guy wouldn't want to salvage anything from his chosen dumpster.

“Thanks a bunch.” He crouched and huddled in beside Dennis, pulling into a crouching fetal position to conserve body heat. He wasn't dressed any better than the first resident.

“Lousy day, isn't it?” Dennis asked.

“Yeah, sure is. You come here often?” He grinned and curled up more than before.

Dennis didn't smile outwardly, but he couldn't help but smile inside. He had almost forgotten he still had a sense of humor, it had been so long since he had used it.

“No. first time. You?”

“Same here. My name is Mathoni. Tell me about yourself.”

“Name's Dennis.” He said no more. The last thing he wanted to do was to recite his miserable history to a complete stranger.

“You must have had a tough one to be that closed-mouth. Sorry to hear of it.” He reached into a shirt pocket and pulled out a chunk of jerky and handed it to Dennis. It might as well have been a thick steak to a man so hungry. Even if it was so small a piece, this was a real treat, to have meat again. Dennis couldn't recall the last time he had enjoyed a full meal.

“Doesn't matter much now,” Dennis lied. He steeled his emotions against what was sure to pour forth, if he allowed it. He leaned forward to check the weather conditions again, hoping the rain would soon stop and this intruder could move on.

“I find that hard to believe. Any accomplishments you may have had in the past should still be important to you. Enough to be proud of, perhaps.”

“Harumph! My past is what brought me to this. I live as I do because of how I lived before. That's nothing to be proud of.” It was evident that he was irritated at the reminder of his past.

“They say that if you learn from your past, you may still benefit from it, so long as you act while you live. What do you think?” The stranger was non-plussed by Dennis's reaction.

“If you are inferring that I could start over and become just as successful as before, you are sadly mistaken, my friend. Let me put it in terms you might understand.” His irritation was unmistakable now. “If you want to generate interest on your money, you need to deposit seed capital, so to speak. I have nothing but the clothes on my back. I am all but invisible to everyone I meet. Who would give me a chance?” He drew himself into a tighter ball and hid his face in his knees.

“Dennis, you're not invisible to God. He knows your situation and he desires to help you.”

Dennis raised his head and turned to look accusingly at Mathoni. “Listen, I let you in out of the rain, but that doesn't mean I want to hear a sermon.”

“No sermon, Dennis? Alright, then let me tell you a story I think will prove to be of interest to you. This is the story of a man who had everything going for him and then let a temptation and weakness etch away the protective armor about him—his strength of virtue, if you will. The saddest thing now is that he thinks he has no chance to start over. And yet he has already overcome the very problem that put him into his predicament. Strange, too, is that he hasn't even recognized that. That alone should be enough to give him hope. He is now much stronger than he was before. He has the advantage of hindsight and a determination not to let that same weakness ever bring him down again. He has a position of great strength to start over from, if you ask me.”

Dennis sat stunned and unable to respond. The story was obviously about him—or certainly could be applied to him. He had overcome his drinking problem. He had been forced to. It was either drink or eat and he had chosen to eat. It had been no easy thing to accomplish at first. The desire for alcohol had almost won. He wanted to anesthetize himself and never feel again, but he had held out and regained his health, even if he had lost his home and job. Mathoni was right—he hadn't considered this as a source of hope. All he had thought of was surviving and that had become the only focus of his life. Until now.

Dennis now lost the steely control he had held onto for so long. He was suddenly all emotion and with it came a sense of release and great relief. A gentle hand on his shoulder, a caring squeeze that he hadn't felt in so long—human touch and acknowledgement that he had for so long craved, without knowing it. He had thought no one would ever again care what happened to him. That had now changed with the arrival of Mathoni.

“Dennis, I have a way that you can start again and regain the life that you once enjoyed. You want that, don't you?”

“More than anything,” Dennis sobbed.

“Alright.” He glanced quickly at the sky, then turned back. “The rain has stopped, so let's get started with your new life, shall we?”

Dennis looked out from his makeshift shelter and saw that the rain had truly stopped, but what touched him most deeply was the fact that the sun had just come out and an intensely bright rainbow now adorned the once angry sky. It was as if this were a sign from God, just for him. Dennis actually smiled for the first time in months. Perhaps someone did care what happened to him and perhaps he wasn't invisible to God after all. He no longer felt invisible and that alone was cause for hope.

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