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Essay

Leaf

By May 28, 2014 One Comment
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I firmly believe that our salvation depends on the poor. – Dorothy Day

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,* you did it to me. – Mattthew 25:35-40

We believe that God, in a world full of injustice and enmity, is in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor and the wronged. – Belhar Confession

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Yesterday I found out that one of West End Collegiate Church’s homeless friends, Leaf, died.

I’m sad as he was someone from our community I was closer to. I remember sitting on a bench in the West Village, drinking coffee, and noticed a homeless man sleeping behind me. He awoke and said “Pastor Jes?!” I turned around “Leaf?! Hey!” For the next 30 minutes we shared poems, coffee, and stories about God on the street. 

He was lonely, as anyone would be who lived on the street, but friendly. Everyone knew Leaf. Until a few months ago, he always carried a guitar. Someone stole his guitar and he was in the process of raising money for a new one. 

Every week I could count on cheesy religious jokes from him. He had a favorite he liked to share with me. “A husband and wife were lying in bed. They wake up on Saturday morning and the husband turns over to the wife and asks that she make the coffee. She refuses. He then lovingly asks her again. She refuses again and this time she says, hunny don’t you read the Bible? It says he brews. Now, go make the coffee.” He would tell it to me with a large smile as if he had never told it before. He was very proud of that joke.

Each week I would greet him by welcoming his dark calloused hand into mine and remind him he was welcome at West End. He was oldder, gray hairs intertwined with his ebony hairs reminding us of the transition from adulthood to elder.

Roger, another homeless friend, told me about Leaf’s passing yesterday. I asked if he knew of a memorial for him. He said that Leaf’s family was the other homeless people here. He will not have the luxury of a fancy memorial.

Leaf, we speak your name. We acknowledge your presence on this earth. You told me that you were often forgotten and overlooked, as many homeless people are. Leaf, we do not overlook your death. We pray peace upon your memory and blessings upon you passing unto the next life with your loving Creator. May you rest in peace and rise in power, dear street pilgrim.

Jes Kast

The Reverend Jes Kast is an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament and serves West End Collegiate Church as their Associate Pastor.

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