Forsaken Folks With Flavor

The other day I had the pleasure of reading a beautiful post titled mister by Lynne over at FreePennyPress. It is an enlightening introduction into humanity, something that most of us try to ignore too often, especially when it’s up close and personal and not so pleasant.

Lynne or “Pretty Lady” as she was dubbed by “Mister” had a unique relationship with a homeless man. She noticed the presence of a broken man and he held the door for her. Nothing too complex to their relationship, just two human beings appreciating the fact that they both exist in this world. Isn’t that really what it’s all about anyway? 

Living in a big city and working in the center of it for many years, I’ve had my share of encounters with people who have become broken for one reason or another. No one plans to take a path that brings them lower, sometimes life makes those decisions for us.

As adults we have a much more jaded view of the broken. It’s usually surrounded by judgement, followed by all the answers on how these broken souls can “get a job”, but most of the time we just ignore their existence. It’s just easier to pretend it’s not happening. 

Both of my kids took music lessons in the city and on more than one occasion we encountered Norman the homeless man who spent much of his time on the steps of a building across from the music school.

Norman is a character to say the least. Everyone knows Norman or as he is often referred …”that guy in the Viking Hat”. Look at that face…Norman is the bomb! 

My son was immediately intrigued by Norman and his badass helmet, not to mention the fact that he would also sport a wall clock around his neck like Flavor Flav. Seriously, what little boy wouldn’t be in complete awe of that get-up?  That joy soon turned to sadness, when I broke the news that Norman was homeless. This was his first experience with homelessness…up close and personal.

On Christmas Eve he wanted to give Norman money that he collected going door to door singing carols, so off we went. Sadly, Norman was nowhere to be found. We found out later he “goes away” during the cold months. Brilliant idea if you ask me. So, we went to other parts of the City to distribute the money until it was gone. Brokenness through a child’s eyes is so clear. 

Later in the Spring as I was sitting out front of the music school, waiting for my daughter to finish her lesson. Up rolls Norman on a bicycle covered in red, white & blue everything. Flags covered the bike and he was wearing a flag pattered bandanna under his Viking helmet. He stopped to talk to me and offered me a swig from his bottle. Lord knows he already had one too many swigs. I kindly declined with an “um, no thanks I don’t drink” and Norman gave me a quick “that’s cool, if your a mother you shouldn’t be drinking” … good advice. Then he proceeded to tell me about a young woman he knew who drank too much and lost her children. His heart just broke for this woman, but he had faith that she would turn herself around. Helpless and helping others…does it get any better?

We chit chatted for a bit before my daughter came out and saw me talking to Norman. The look on her face was priceless!  Norman wobbled off into the sunset shouting back “have a happy Mothers Day whenever it is” … will do Norman, will do. My daughter was rolling her eyes as she expressed “Mom!  OMG, do you have to talk to everyone? .. yerp I do. Seriously, as if she didn’t already know.

I haven’t seen Norman in a while, but was so happy to find this photo over at http://thirstyfish.com/index.php?p=481 that was taken in January of this year. Looks like Norman is doing well these days sporting his shiny new Viking Helmet. Everyone knows Norman! 

The backstory is that Norman was a very successful business man at one time.  He was in the entertainment business, which didn’t surprise me in the least. Apparently he went through a very bitter divorce that left him broken, bitter or maybe both. But, I’ll be the first to tell you this man’s spirit was not included in that break. He is a very kind soul with a big heart and an even bigger smile!

Everyone…including the broken, should have the opportunity to…Enjoy the Ride!


18 responses

  1. Beautiful post. We all need a Norman in our life. During our time of living in Maine we had Cosmic Bob whom we would see walking on the coldest nights and we would often give him a ride to where he was going. People are people are people. We all have our trials and tribulations. Thanks for writing this, it was a blessing. DAF

    1. Cosmic Bob..I know we would be friends. We all have baggage, some bigger than others. The story from Lynne at Penny Press had me filling up..I was so inspired by her words. Thank you!

  2. I LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS ONE!!!!! We all have our own Norman’s its just a matter of whether we realize we have just experienced the gift or not. j’adore! Here’s to Norman making small(really big) changes in the world…(((CHEERS NORMAN!)))

    1. Norman Rocks! He’s usually at 4th & South being his badass self … if you’re ever in the neighborhood.

  3. free penny press | Reply

    Dear God woman, first read of the day , only 2 sips of coffee down and already I’m crying..Not sad tears, happy tears that you see what I see and many others.. There are so many broken people on this planet and why should the strong not lift up the weak even if only for a brief conversation.. I love Norman’s hat and his spirit…you are a good Mother because your kids will remember and act accordingly.. mine do.. geez, they are softer than me 🙂
    Loved your “Norman” story..thx for sharing!!

    1. Right back at ya! Honestly, that’s all it takes is recognition. So simple. Norman actually has a son who is a professor. He is always trying to “bring him home” but he won’t go. The fact that the son still acknowledges him says a lot.

  4. Sounds like your son took it after you to get interest in people no matter how insignificant they may SEEM to be. Good for him! Great story. Is Norman in his right mind, or he lost it a bit? I wonder if there’s a way for him to get back on track?

  5. This is such a great story! I love your message of non-judgement. What a sweet son you have to go around making money to help him. You should be so proud.
    When I lived in Madison, there was a homeless man named Art. He washed windows for all the businesses on the State Street Mall. Someone made t-shirts to help him get by. It read, “ART is a Window Washer on State Street.”
    Thanks for the wonderful story!

    1. That was a great idea! It’s funny how most towns have a town regular. Thanks for that story…love hearing about people helping people it’s so energizing.

  6. I have a suggestion. You can take it for what it’s worth… I LOVE your avatar and think you should tag your blog the same way either by switching out the Fretym or the “Just another WordPress Blog. After clicking on your Life with the Top Down, I thought I had come to the wrong blog!

    I would find a photo of an old wooden or plastic steering wheel with a woman’s gloved hands steering it and take the photo from the woman’s perspective so all you see is the hands on the wheel and use it for your banner.
    Wordpress editors would love it and you may get FP’d. -you should be anyway. Anyway, just a thought. Have a great weekend!

    1. Thank you so much! I’m still looking for the perfect photo, but in the meantime I made changes. I really appreciate your help!!

  7. Yes I guess every town does have a Norman. And I think that the “Norman’s” of the world have got it figured out. I bet that there are kind shop owners there in that city that slip him some food. His being a character is his job now. To try and make people laugh or to realize that there are homeless people that could use a little help. I would like to think that if I ever become homeless that I can be as upbeat as Norman.

    1. Thanks for stopping by. Oh, do doubt here that the Norman’s of this world certainly have gotten it right! All the shop owners know him very well, he is loved that’s for sure. Jeez, I wish I was that beat and I have a home.

  8. I love this post. To this day I kick myself for not taking a photo of a cowboy and his horse out near Moab, UT. They were quite obviously homeless, but he had a truck and trailer… It was nearing 100 degrees and we didn’t notice them as we pulled into a gas station to fill up. We were already on the on-ramp for the interstate when i spotted them, and I still see the “photograph” in my mind of this broken-down cowboy, sitting on the wheel well of the horse trailer, his paint horse standing next to him, one hip cocked, the saddle and blanket set down nearby… both hanging their heads. My heart jumps up into my throat when I see that image.

    1. Wow, now that guy has a story. The fact that he had the horse with him shows he has a kind heart. That is another mouth to feed….

  9. Forgive me for reading this late. Your writing gets better and better by the way. I see much of that in New York. There’s a young guy with long matted red hair who sleeps in a doorway I see most mornings. Boy am I humbled to the millionth degree. I then return to my modest home and thank God I have it. I like the term broken because you’re right, something breaks down we can’t always see. Great post.

  10. Haha, I feel like this needs an extra “Like” button just so I can like that picture!

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