This STORY is very lovingly dedicated to all my many beloved homeless friends in Savannah, GA, and beyond. It is now available in book form and in pocket-sized booklet form. Please contact me at 843-338-2219 or firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
Once upon a time there was a HOMELESS DREAM. This was not somebody’s dream about helping homeless people, nor was it anybody’s dream about helping homeless dogs. This was truly a DREAM that was really HOMELESS. For no matter how hard the HOMELESS DREAM searched, and no matter how long the HOMELESS DREAM looked, and no matter how many doors of people’s hearts the HOMELESS DREAM knocked upon in search of a loving home, absolutely not a single human heart would give the HOMELESS DREAM a place to call home.
“Go away, we’re busy,” some people’s hearts told the HOMELESS DREAM even as they slammed their big, sturdy doors shut in the HOMELESS DREAM’s face without so much as an ounce of compassion or concern. “We don’t have a home for you!”
“We have better things to do than give a HOMELESS DREAM a home,” other hearts said to the HOMELESS DREAM as they shut their pretty freshly painted doors and turned back to the way they chose to live their lives.
“We don’t believe in DREAMS,” some hearts said sullenly to the HOMELESS DREAM as they continued on with their dream-less lives. They were too sad to even shut their doors; they stood somberly in their doorways until they miserably watched the HOMELESS DREAM walk away.
“This is a gated community. How did you get in here anyway?” some hearts yelled snootily through their cookie cutter doors of their cookie cutter homes to the HOMELESS DREAM. “We have better things to do with our lives than to live a DREAM. You’re not welcome in this neighborhood. We’re calling security!”
“What kind of DREAM are you anyway?” one timid heart said shyly to the HOMELESS DREAM, not even confident enough to look up into the HOMELESS DREAM’s face. The heart simply looked dejectedly down at the ground.
The HOMELESS DREAM was surprised after being homeless for so long that anybody would even say anything more than a big emphatic NO to the HOMELESS DREAM, let alone ask a question.
“I am a DREAM from God,” the HOMELESS DREAM replied eagerly, hoping perhaps at last a heart had been found to give the HOMELESS DREAM a home.
“God has a plan for every person’s life,” the HOMELESS DREAM continued excitedly, starting to dream as dreams of course will do. Maybe this heart was the heart that would give the HOMELESS DREAM a home, the HOMELESS DREAM began to dream. “God has DREAMS to place in people’s hearts so they can love Him, and serve Him, and worship Him, and glorify His name by living the DREAMS He gives His children!” the HOMELESS DREAM happily and hopefully explained.
The HOMELESS DREAM couldn’t wait to hear the heart’s response. Would this, at long last, be the heart that would give the HOMELESS DREAM a long awaited home?
“I don’t believe in DREAMS,” the timid heart replied in a whisper. “I’ve had too many DREAMS crushed already.” And, with that, the timid heart turned quietly, and sadly, and somberly, away. The timid heart shut the door ever so quietly in the now downcast face of the disappointed HOMELESS DREAM.
The HOMELESS DREAM was sad also, but refused to give up hope. How could a dream, after all, stop dreaming, even if the dream was homeless? Surely, somewhere, somehow, someway, the HOMELESS DREAM would find a home. The HOMELESS DREAM didn’t like sleeping outside in the freezing cold with nothing more than a raggedy blanket full of dog hair that some person had tossed at the HOMELESS DREAM as the HOMELESS DREAM was walking by a vastly big, undeniably elegant church building one Sunday morning.
The HOMELESS DREAM had considered going into the church that morning to listen to all the churchgoers sing the pretty songs about Jesus, but the HOMELESS DREAM remembered the last time the HOMELESS DREAM had tried going into a church. The usher had told the HOMELESS DREAM to go away because HOMELESS DREAMS that were not clean cut and that didn’t have nice clothes to wear weren’t welcome at church services. The church had been shut in the HOMELESS DREAM’s face before the church service even began. The HOMELESS DREAM had become all too familiar with closed doors of all shapes and sizes and colors. The doors always ended up closed. It was a wonder the HOMELESS DREAM even bothered knocking on doors anymore. But still the HOMELESS DREAM persisted.
Why won’t anyone give me a home? the HOMELESS DREAM wondered sometimes. Other times, the HOMELESS DREAM thought it best not to wonder. The HOMELESS DREAM had learned the hard way that hearts that still believed in dreams were often filled up with their own dreams. They didn’t have so much as a spare room, or a living room couch in their hearts to give a home to a dream that came from God. The hearts had their own human dreams that apparently they felt were more important than any dream God would give them.
“I have plenty of my own dreams,” one human heart had told the HOMELESS DREAM long ago back when the HOMELESS DREAM began searching for a home. “We humans like to come up with our own dreams. Why would we want to let go of our own dreams and give a home to a dream from God? We have our own plans for our hearts and lives.”
One night, after a particularly depressing day of more rejection from human hearts than the DREAM could ever remember receiving in a single day, the HOMELESS DREAM searched around high and low for a park bench to sleep upon to get a good night’s sleep.
But the HOMELESS DREAM discovered that all the park benches were taken by happy couples living their happy dreams and teenagers living their happy lives and families laughing and drinking hot chocolate and telling happy stories. So the HOMELESS DREAM continued on, walking more slowly by the hour as the HOMELESS DREAM searched for somewhere warm to sleep that night.
When the HOMELESS DREAM had walked mile after mile it seemed and grown too weary, and dejected, to walk even another step, the HOMELESS DREAM stumbled over something on the gravel pathway that winded its way alongside a long strip of old storefronts that once belonged to prosperous businesses that were no more. The HOMELESS DREAM looked down at the ground to see what the HOMELESS DREAM had stumbled upon.
It was just an old notebook, its grey cover torn and tattered and faded and spotted with coffee or tea stains perhaps, that somebody had dropped and never come back to find. The HOMELESS DREAM looked at the notebook under the bleak light of the streetlight and saw one single word on the cover etched in thick black letters and highlighted by a human hand in faded yellow. The word was DREAMBOOK.
The HOMELESS DREAM opened the notebook and saw nothing there. For there was nothing inside the person’s DREAMBOOK to see. The person had never filled the notebook with a single dream. Not even a name. Not a single word. It was empty, the pages blank canvases of nothing. Not even a doodle or scribble or anything at all.
The HOMELESS DREAM set the notebook back on the ground as though not to disturb its sorrow any longer, for surely a DREAMBOOK empty of dreams would be sorry if notebooks could be sorry. Sorry like the HOMELESS DREAM was. Searching for a heart to call home. Seeking a heart that believed in dreams – not just any dreams, but God dreams.
The HOMELESS DREAM walked a little farther before stopping and looking around at all the storefronts. All of the store owners had gone out of business, one after another, when they had discovered that their own human dreams for their lives were only temporal. The storefronts had broken windows, cardboard placed in some of them, and bespoke of broken dreams in their lackluster, old, faded signs. They had no electricity anymore. Several of them had been vandalized, as though a bunch of kids had thought to find something inside their empty interiors. But there was nothing there, of course. A stray, chunky, grey and white cat wandered up and back in front of the storefronts, as though on patrol, and a family of mice had made themselves an abode within. The mice fed on old crumbs from long-ago dreams, and the cat fed on the mice to fill its hungry belly. And everything about the place was just plain miserable.
The HOMELESS DREAM took one look at the storefronts and realized the HOMELESS DREAM simply did not have the strength and energy to go another step. Fortunately, when the HOMELESS DREAM walked around in a little circle, the HOMELESS DREAM found the perfect place to rest for the night. Two olive green-painted wooden benches, old and splintery, dirty from long-ago children’s chocolate and vanilla ice cream cones fallen upon them, initials from high school sweethearts engraved on the backs of them, with a bunch of old trash beneath them, they would suffice for the night.
One of the benches would do anyway. The other bench was already occupied. A HOMELESS MAN with a long, skinny, scraggly, red beard and a big black wool cap jammed down low on his head to cover his eyes from the old streetlight that blinked and blinked, blinked and blinked, irritatingly, lay in a fetal position on the bench to keep his legs from falling off the end. The HOMELESS MAN sought desperately for sleep as he hugged his long arms around his filthy body which was covered in a just about ancient pair of overalls that had been passed on to him by some old, persnickety, pesky lady that picked stuff out of the trash and passed it along like she had won the lottery and couldn’t be bothered to keep it all to herself.
The HOMELESS MAN was desperate for sleep, for he would do just about anything to escape from the depression that had worn him down to the point he wouldn’t have minded calling it quits on his life. He had long ago given up the booze. He had never taken to drugs. He couldn’t think of any other way to escape but sleep, which is why he had walked an extra mile or so that night to find somewhere to sleep away from all the other homeless people who would inevitably keep him up with their boisterous ceaseless chatter.
“I hope I’m not intruding,” the HOMELESS DREAM said politely to the HOMELESS MAN.
The HOMELESS MAN didn’t reply. He was too depressed to have a conversation. He really wasn’t up for anybody’s company. He really wasn’t up for anything at all. So he just lay there pretending to sleep as he listened to the cars go by, their tires making a pattern of clunk-clunk noises as they rode over pothole after pothole. He didn’t even bother to look over at the other bench to see who had decided to sleep on that bench for the night.
“Do you ever feel like giving up?” the HOMELESS DREAM asked as he pulled his blanket tightly over himself, getting a big icky whiff of dirty dog smell from the blanket.
The HOMELESS MAN didn’t reply. But he knew exactly how hopeless the HOMELESS DREAM felt. He knew all about that gnawing, clinging, wretched, debilitating, feeling that there just wasn’t any point to living.
“I never thought I would feel this way,” the HOMELESS DREAM continued. “I was always so hopeful, so positive, so cheery. Until I realized this world is just too busy, too preoccupied, too consumed with itself, too consumed with its own plans and agendas, too self-focused, and self-everything, to even bother anymore with the idea that God has a dream for every person’s life. Whoever thought I would end up homeless? Me, a HOMELESS DREAM. Imagine that.” The HOMELESS DREAM sighed and snuggled deeper into the blanket.
“I used to believe in dreams myself,” the HOMELESS MAN said, surprising himself that he had anything to say at all.
Usually when the HOMELESS MAN got this down and depressed, and was just on the verge of thinking maybe he should just end it all, the last thing in the world he wanted to do was to talk to somebody. Especially a stranger. And these days, staying as far away from even other homeless people as he did, everyone was pretty much a stranger.
“I stopped believing in dreams, well, I can’t even remember when. I guess I got tired of the world beating me up. I didn’t plan to become a homeless person, not that anybody ever does,” the HOMELESS MAN continued with his story. “I lost my job when my boss went bankrupt. My wife died of cancer. Couldn’t pay all her bills without the health insurance. Never even had the chance to have kids. I had dreams once, you know. Now here I am on the streets, living a nightmare. A dreamless life, that’s what it is. Just can’t find any hope anymore.”
“Me too,” the HOMELESS DREAM commiserated. “I had dreams once, too.” How odd that must have sounded, the HOMELESS DREAM realized. Yet how true.
“There was one thing I always wanted more than anything else, you know,” the HOMELESS MAN shared, surprising himself with all the words that were tumbling out of his mouth.
The HOMELESS MAN couldn’t even remember the last time he had opened his mouth, let alone his heart, to anybody. He couldn’t even remember the last time he had talked. His voice was gravelly from disuse, his mouth was dry. He needed some water. But more than that, he found, he needed to talk. So he did. He talked as the HOMELESS DREAM listened.
“You know what I wanted?” the HOMELESS MAN continued. “I wanted God to give me His dream for my life. I wanted to know His plan for me. Not the plan He has for everybody. I know we’re all supposed to love Him, and to love our neighbors. I know we’re all supposed to tell people about Jesus. I got that. But I wanted to know why He put me specifically on this earth. Surely He must have had a dream for me. Oh, what I would have given for a sense of purpose. I had long since given up my own dreams. I wanted His. I wanted to believe He had a dream for me. Not a little human dream. A God-sized dream. My heart ached for this. I just couldn’t find it.”
The HOMELESS MAN shoved his cap up from over his eyes, peeked out with his great big hazel eyes at the streetlight staring down at him, and wiped a couple of tears sitting on the tops of his gaunt cheeks. He lay down still on his bench, but now he had come out of his fetal position and faced upward toward the streetlight which was surrounded by all the brilliant stars in the sky. If every star were a dream, he thought to himself, why couldn’t one of them be for him?
“I didn’t stop believing in God,” the HOMELESS MAN told the HOMELESS DREAM after a long period of silence. “Being homeless is harder than anybody thinks. People in houses think it’s all about panhandling. About being dirty and smelly and having no place to get a shave. About sneaking into bookstores to get a quick snooze over in the magazine section where maybe nobody can see. People don’t get it. It’s the brokenness that gets me. People see us homeless folk as faceless, nameless, dreamless. They label us. Homeless.
“Maybe they feel sorry for us,” the HOMELESS MAN continued. “Or maybe they hate us. Whatever they feel, they’re foreigners. Because they don’t want to walk across the great divide. So they toss their coins so they can feel better and walk on to live their dreams. They see our homelessness in the dirt, the beards, the ragged clothes.
“They don’t seem too much, if ever, to look past the outsides of us to see our hearts – to see what hurts, what got damaged, what was crushed, what’s broken, what’s missing. Like having a reason to live. A reason to dream. A dream. Oh, what I would have given to have one. No, I didn’t stop believing in God. I stopped believing He had a dream or me,” the HOMELESS MAN finished.
The HOMELESS MAN couldn’t believe how much he was talking. He wiped more tears from his eyes. He had stuffed them in for so long that he couldn’t remember the last time he had turned them loose. Now they came quickly, unbound, unstoppable.
The HOMELESS DREAM listened with attentive ears, with an attentive heart. The HOMELESS DREAM understood. They were both outcasts. But they hadn’t started out that way. It’s just that the world didn’t seem to have a place for either one of them. They simply didn’t fit into the world’s pretty picture. There wasn’t anything particularly pretty about either one of them. They were both downcast. They were both missing something.
“My heart is so empty,” the HOMELESS MAN said, finishing now what he had begun. He sat up slowly on the bench, tucked his long thin legs under him, and looked over at the HOMELESS DREAM for the first time. “Someone dropped an old raggedy Bible in my bucket one day, back when I was still using a bucket to beg. I’ve read it every day since. But sometimes I just want God to be more than black and white. I want Him to come off the pages. I want Him to get in my face, shake me even, do anything at all to tell me He’s real. I want Him to fill up my heart again like He used to do. You know what I really want most of all? I want Him to give me a dream. Not just any old dream. His dream.”
The HOMELESS DREAM grabbed the corner of his old blanket and used it to catch the tears falling from the HOMELESS DREAM’s eyes. The HOMELESS DREAM had been so on the verge of giving up finding a heart to call home that the last thing the HOMELESS DREAM would have imagined would be this.
The HOMELESS DREAM had found a heart in a HOMELESS MAN. While the world passed them both by, tossing them coins as an afterthought as the world pursued the things the world pursues. While the Lord looked down from heaven and wiped a single tear from His eye. Then God smiled as the Homeless Dream found its new home in the HOMELESS MAN whose heart was now filled with God’s DREAM for him.
As soon as daylight came to pass, the HOMELESS MAN whose heart now held God’s DREAM for him yawned wide, he stretched big, he lifted his shoulders high, he smiled for the first time in as long as he could remember, and he walked down the narrow, winding path step by step, his feet no longer dragging on the ground like they had for so long, his heart not dragging either, and then he stopped.
The HOMELESS MAN looked directly down at his feet, he knelt down on the ground beside his DREAMBOOK, and when he rose from the ground with notebook in hand, he began the rest of his journey.
The HOMELESS MAN could not help but imagine how many more DREAMBOOKS he would need to recount his testimony of how his life would now unfold as he began to live God’s DREAM for his life.
The HOMELESS MAN didn’t have a home. He didn’t know yet where he would sleep that night, nor the next one nor any one after. But he knew he would be alright. For the HOMELESS MAN had a DREAM. And he was at peace at last because he knew his DREAM was God’s. And though he did not have so much as a warm winter coat or blanket, not a pair of gloves nor a plan for his next meal, he had hope because he knew the rest of his life had just begun.
The HOMELESS MAN took a few steps forward, then stopped. Then he knelt to the ground once more. He clutched the DREAMBOOK right against his heart, leaned forward as he remained on his knees, and pressed his forehead to the cold ground.
And he wept in repentance for all the things he had ever done wrong, asking God to forgive him, and did not stand up again until He had been washed and cleansed and freed from all the bitterness and brokenness, all the discouragement and disappointment, all the unbelief that God did not in fact have a beautiful plan for His life. He didn’t bother to wipe away his tears. For He knew one day in heaven God would wipe away his tears.
And, until then, until heaven, the MAN with the DREAM would live the abundant life his Savior had died on the cross for him to live.
The MAN picked up his pace now as he walked along the pathway, hurrying in anticipation to see where God would take him next.