The flower salesman

I know the faces of most of the homeless in the town where I do my field work; many have sat across the desk from me at one time or another and others I just recognize from seeing them around town.

But I was caught by surprise with his flower-laden hands; the roses stolen, I’m nearly certain, from a streetside bush. “I love your hair!” he shouted at me as he crossed the street while I got in my car. Polite to a fault, I smiled and thanked him and closed the car door in his face.

Then I realized he meant to give me some of those flowers. Or so I thought.


Inwardly cursing my good manners, I rolled down the window and smiled some more and listened to his story. Because there’s always at least one good long one. Something in my face brings out the storyteller in people.

Really, I think I must have *I’m a social worker. Tell me every last one of your troubles, please!” stamped across my forehead in ink that everyone but me can see.

Turns out he’s a Vet that lives in a tent in the woods beyond Deal Lake in Asbury. Has a small army of children that eat up the majority of his VA pension with child support. His mind is still mostly somewhere in Vietnam, as he referred over and over to what his Captain says, as if that weren’t forty-some years ago.

I’d guess it was about 10 minutes into our conversation, when he wanted money for the freely offered roses, that he regretted ever throwing a compliment my way.

Cast aside was the smiling white lady who might have money in exchange for a sad story. She was replaced by the social worker with suggestions for where he might find a place to stay for a while, a list of phone numbers and more unsolicited advice than he cared to listen to.

I left him finally with my business card, some change from the bucket I keep in the car for tolls and a bit of inside information that might just make some real difference in his life.

The application list for rental assistance opened in Asbury today. Only today. People wait for years on those lists, wait for decades for the list even to be open. Most people find out after the fact, when it’s too late. Many of the people who need rental assistance never read a newspaper where the announcement and application are published.

I told him to take the money I’d *paid* him for the flowers and buy himself today’s paper so he could submit the application right away and have it postmarked in time.

He thanked me and ambled away across the street, not realizing I was watching him from the intersection while I waited for the light to change. He crossed Main St. and went straight to the liquor store with my money in his pocket.

I’m hoping he bought today’s paper and not a bottle.

Answers come, I suspect, in the form of angels sent to us unaware. So often we’re upheld by giants of Kindness and Hope, by the kind of people who you pass on the street and feel sorry for because they are poor or uneducated or unable to speak much English. Together with the burden of all the sad stories I hear, I like to imagine the benefit of understanding and knowing deeply that true treasures wait here, that a certain kind of strength and confidence resides in the exact places and in the very people you’d least expect.

His rose, suspended in a small ceramic vase on the fridge, will remind me of that for the next couple days.


All afternoon, Sir,
your ambassadors have been turning
into lakes and rivers.
At first they were just clouds, like any other.
Then they swelled and swirled; then they hung very still;
then they broke open. This is, I suppose,
just one of the common miracles,
a transformation, not a vision,
not an answer, not a proof, but I put it
there, close against my heart, where the need is, and it serves

the purpose. I go on, soaked through, my hair
slicked back;
like corn, or wheat, shining and useful.

Clouds by Mary Oliver

I wonder if it’d been raining for a month straight when Mary Oliver wrote this poem.


The sky cleared early this evening and the light was just gorgeous the way it lit up the tips of the oak leaves, the white of the kingbird’s tail feathers, the sand at the edge of the ocean.

There will be a Father’s Day post, but right now it feels like pulling teeth.


Hope it was happy for all and was spent in whatever way made you happiest.

ABC meme

Stolen from Lynne on Facebook. Play along if you like!

A – Age: 39
B – Bed size: Queen
C – Chore you hate: Balancing the checkbook
D – Dog’s name: Luka (also rabbits named Boomer, Sunshine, Peeper, and Freckles)
E – Essential start your day item: Coffee.
F- Favorite color(s): Green
G – Gold or Silver: Platinum!
H – Height: 5’10”
I – Instruments you play(ed): Clarinet, Piano, Pennywhistle
J – Job title: Housing Coordinator/Social Worker Bilingual
K – Kitchen wish list: Lessons, maybe. 😉
L – Living arrangements: Close to the beach!
M – Mom’s name: Claire
N – Nicknames: BLT (coworkers), Lauralie (family), Legs (high school)
O – Overnight hospital stay: None
P – Pet Peeve(s): That fuzz under the bed (where does it come from?), bossy people, product packaging that’s impossible to remove
Q – Quote from a movie: I don’t do movies
R – Right or left handed: Depends on the task at hand
S – Siblings: Two (I’m the youngest and the only girl = spoiled)
T – Time you wake up: 6:30 ish
U – Underwear: Usually, yes. 😉
V – Vegetable you dislike: Cauliflower
W – Workout style: Weight training and yoga
X – X-rays you’ve had: Lots of my teeth
Y – Yesterday’s best moment: Finally getting iTunes to cooperate after 4+ hours of fighting with it!
Z – Zoo favorite(s): I’ve never been to a proper zoo

First steps

We have a student interning with us for the summer… a sweet girl from my alma matter who I got to drag along on field visits with me today.

I have to give her credit… so far she seems unfazed by anything she’s seen. What she’s heard about during downtime late on Friday afternoons hasn’t scared her off, either.

I admit to being careful in the selection of clients we saw today; I don’t suppose I needed to do that. But some things and some clients just make me too uncomfortable to have to deal with, without a student watching every bumbling move I make.


So rather than treating her to the guy who routinely answers the door in his underwear (!) or the lady in the house without a single place to sit or any of the really shady parts of town, we met with mostly regular clients and one who likes to talk. Alot. About everything imaginable. Inappropriate things, even.

It was fun. She barely raised an eyebrow.