I was walking to work the other day, as the weather has warmed up enough, there is now plenty of light in the mornings, and I’m lucky enough to be a half hour walk through the suburbs from my workplace. The walk is great, it gets my body and mind going in the mornings, and helps me walk off the stresses of the day (not that I have many stresses, mind you, just the usual office dribs and drabs, which really aren’t so much stresses as much as Things That Occupy My Mind).

Anyhow, I walk past my old elementary school and church, as I started out at private Catholic school, St. Anthony’s. The building that used to be my school was torn down several years ago, and a new building put up in its place, sort of. The new building doesn’t isn’t in the footprint of the old. It’s strange to walk past the place though, as that old school still comes up as a setting in my dreams ever so often. Even as I write this, all I can see in my mind’s eye is the old building and I can’t even think of what the new ones looks like.

As I was coming upon the block where St. Anthony’s is, I espied at the foot of the driveway to the property a yellow taxi cab with the doors wide open, a large green bag on the pavement behind the cab, an older, slightly stout woman in jeans and a cream jumper pulling out some sort of paperwork from the back seat of the cab, the cab driver placing some additional plastic shopping bags beside the green bag, and the occasional car pulling into the church either because the teachers were coming in early, or people were arriving for the 8am mass.

The giant bag was strange, but I figured it to be one of those sacks that coaches use to haul around sports equipment, and likewise figured the woman to be someone’s grandparent was had volunteered to bring the school’s soccer team’s equipment to a morning practice, and either her car had broken down or she didn’t have a car, hence the cab.

As I neared the scene, the driver jumped back into the cab and took off. The woman, who at this point had strewn some of the papers all over the sidewalk, stood for a moment with something in her hand. I was then close enough to realize several things:

a) the older, slightly stout woman was actually a wiry older homeless man in baggy clothing, clutching a steaming latte in a ceramic travel coffee mug
b) the large green bag was actually a green tarp filled with his belongingsc) the plastic bags and paperwork were the remnants of his possessions that somehow hadn’t fit in the tarp sack

I know knew why the cars going into St. Anthony’s had slowed down as they came across this little vignette and, in true Vancouver fashion, not one of them had stopped to check what the fellow was doing, to ask him if he needed any help, or to do anything at all. As likely as not, they probably had all congregated inside the church to natter on about the situation without doing anything about it, one way or the other.

man, cigarette, latte, coffee, starbucks, smoking, drinking coffeeAs I passed by him, the fellow sat down on the curb with his latte, and lit a cigarette. I thought to myself, surely I can’t just walk past without checking in on him, I mean, what if he’s unstable and needs help? The school children will be arriving shortly and the church is just a few meters away if I need to go in to get help for him.

So I went back and asked him, “Is everything okay?”

To which he replied, perfectly lucidly, “Yup, thanks.”

And that was that. He sounded completely in command of his faculties, lord knows why he happened to catch a cab to the foot a suburban church in the middle of West Vancouver. The closest as I can come to, on this, is that the church isn’t too far from the entrance to Capilano Regional Park, a park to which some homeless people go during the warmer summer months and set up camp in there. Maybe the guy was going to end up in Cap and the cab driver dropped him off four blocks too early. Anyhow, I kept walking.

bumblebeeHalf a block later, I came across an enormous bumblebee lying on its back on the sidewalk, which made me very sad as I really like bees and bumblebees, and used to pet the daft things (the bumblebees) as a child (I’d pick up a clover on which one of these large creatures had alit and was busy gathering up pollen, and I’d pet its furry back very gently was one finger). As I looked down, and this one was particularly huge, almost an inch in length, I saw that its little legs were moving. That morning was on the cooler side, and the bumblebee must have tried to make a go of it but the cold got to it and grounded the wee beastie. I was wearing gloves, so I picked up the bumblebee and set it aright. It started to crawl, which I was delighted to see, so I picked it up again and put it on the grass next to the sidewalk, so at least no one would step on it (eternally optimistic here, and that no bird would attempt to eat it). I felt rather good about the whole thing.

Let It Be, BeatlesHalf a block after that, “Let It Be” by the Beatles started to play on my iPod, which I thought was a great coincidence on all sorts of levels, notwithstanding the pun on the word ‘Be’ and my “bee” experience, and the zen outlook of the song.

Between all these three coincidences, I had a great zen start to my day.

Later that day, I was meeting my friend, DM, for a walk during our lunch hour, and was telling him about this strange set of morning circumstances, when we came across another mutual friend, EW, who was having a rough day of it and was in some need of moral support and some boosting of her morale. Now the thing is, DM and I were supposed to have met the day previous for lunch but something had come up so we hadn’t been able to, and were going instead on this day. I like to think that we were supposed to be there for EW at that moment when she really needed some friends about to cheer her up, which DM and I did our best to do, with, if I do say so myself, we did so successfully.

So here is where the story comes full circle: EW’s last name ends in ‘-bee.’ So, being a lover of symbolism and great believer in fate (when it fits), think that my picking up of the bumblebee was a metaphor of the -bee that DM and I helped cheer up later that afternoon. Coincidentally, EW was wearing a yellow sweater to boot. Also, St. Anthony is knows as the patron saint of lost things, and EW’s stress was over some seemingly lost paperwork. Coincidence? Serendipity? Fate? The Universe communicating in its mysterious way?

The only thing I can’t place is the homeless guy with a latte, but I like to think that God has a sense of humour and through that one in for a lark.

Gary Larson, Far Side, God has a sense of humour, sense of humor


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