“Late Autumn Island” by Clayton
It was an unusually cold afternoon here in Louisville, Kentucky, and snow flurries and sleet fell from the overcast October sky. The wind made it feel even colder, and I couldn’t shake the chill of the day no matter what I did. Leave it to one of the men at the day shelter for homeless men where I work to make the day brighter and warmer with an unexpected act of kindness that I will never forget.
One of the staff members alerted me that Clayton had come to the day shelter to see me, so, I made my way across the shelter to greet him. He checks in with me about his efforts to obtain housing and to update me on his various medical concerns, and since we do not have the resources to meet his current needs, I do what I can to provide Clayton with support and compassion while we continue to address the barriers to housing. Instead of Clayton coming to me for assistance, today, he came to me for an entirely different reason.
He met me with a smile, red-faced from the cold wind and steadying himself with his cane, and we exchanged warm pleasantries. When I asked what I could do for him today, he surprised me by saying, “I have something to give you. I have had it hidden outside since the weekend, waiting until I could make it in here to give it to you. Wait right here; I’ll go get it.” I definitely was intrigued.
A few minutes later, Clayton returned, carrying the homemade sculpture pictured above, and he gingerly presented it to me and said, “I made this for you from a piece of drift wood I found near where I camp out, and my brother gave me the wire. I call it, Late Autumn Island.” As I thanked him for making me such a lovely and unique gift, I noticed tears pooling in his eyes, which set off tears of my own, as he said, “It’s just to thank you for you everything you do for me.” I gave him a hug, and in quiet, breaking voice, Clayton said, “I love you”, and I responded in a voice that matched his emotion, saying, “I love you right back, Clayton.”
When we parted ways, I took my precious gift to my office, where it now proudly sits on my desk. Whenever I look at it, I immediately break into a smile, as it really is far more beautiful than this picture shows, and the colors and the markings on the driftwood are simply lovely. I am not artistic at all, so, I am in awe when I see an artist create something out of nothing. Clayton’s work of art truly left me in awe for a number of reasons. It amazed me that he took the unlikely duo of wood and wire to create a lovely sculpture. It amazed me that he chose me to be the recipient of this priceless treasure. It amazed me that he carefully protected it from the elements and other people to deliver it safely to me today. It amazed me, and so did he.
Clayton managed to take two elements that most people overlook and do not consider to be beautiful to create something wonderful. He saw the potential that most people miss. That sculpture is like the men who come to the day shelter seeking hope and help. Outwardly, they may not fit the definition of beautiful, and because of their living status, most people view them as anything but having value and potential. They have been set adrift by society at large, waiting to wash up on shore and to have someone help them discover their incredible worth and unlimited potential. How truly blessed I am to have the honor and privilege of receiving a precious gift from Clayton and, more importantly, to be able to share this part of his journey with him.
As I left the day shelter to go to a meeting, I passed by Clayton and exchanged farewells with him. I was almost to the front door, when I heard him call out to me from across the day shelter, “I love you, Miss Kristi.” I grinned from ear to ear and replied, “I love you right back, Clayton”. For that moment, I hope that he no longer felt adrift in life, as he has a home with all of us at the day shelter, and I hope that a home of his own to keep him anchored becomes available for him soon.
That’s another story . . .
Categories: That's Another Story