Over the headphones Nano listened to Cats In The Cradle, a Harry Chapin song. Part of studying human culture was being involved in what they did, aside from his chosen homelessness. A song about a man to busy working for his family to be a part of it. A man heavily involved in the delusion of taking care of family, while not giving them what they most needed, his presence and love. The father was going through the motions, but not really involved with the family.
“Now, everyone bow their heads for prayer” ordered Soup Nazi Beatrice. Having read a passage of scripture to over a hundred people at lunch time that she adamantly demanded be respectful with silence while reading the bible, now was the mandatory bowing of the head. Beatrice was going through the motions of caring, but not really involved with the homeless, giving love and respect.
“Dear Lord” she started. “Remind us of your love and affection in our times of need. Even though we may not have all we want we are blessed to have people take care of us, see to our needs, tell us what to do and help us with our responsibilities which we cannot do ourselves. Bless the churches whom without their help we’d be lost. Though we have nothing, we are grateful they decide to come here and we are honored by their faith, presence and above all, their example of how to live which we the homeless need to see.”
Someone mumbled lowly, “God bless Beatrice so that when she heels over, hopefully she won’t fall in the soup that we are blessed enough to receive from our morally superior fellow citizens.” There were a few chuckles and more smiles and Beatrice paused briefly, then continued.
“Dear Lord, please remind us that we need everything we get and to not acknowledge you is a sin. We know that those who are lost and helpless are often condemned, but with encouragement can be saved from their own folly. Amen.”
The forced head-bowing was over. ‘Guests’ could look up now without fear of being scolded for not being respectful to the church volunteers who had showed up to serve a Sloppy Joe lunch for the third day in a row. Nano didn’t like this meal, so after waiting patiently for his table to be called according to a random pulling of names on cups on various tables, he decided to only have salad. Salad consisted of nothing more than lettuce without dressing. Not much of a meal, but the homeless were constantly told to be thankful for having anything to eat, thanks to the blessed folk from local churches. If you weren’t properly humble and appreciative, you could easily be dismissed from supper and go hungry. It was like being a rebellious child at family dinner and being sent up to your room. Except of course, the homeless here were mostly full grown adults being treated as children. It surely had no positive bearing on the naturally low self-esteem of people have lost their homes, possessions, jobs, families and pride.
Returning to his table, Nano forked some lettuce from his small foam bowl into his mouth. Beatrice approached and stopped behind the man who’d made the comment earlier during prayer, though it was hard to believe she’d actually made sense of the lowly spoken humor offered.
“I heard what you said”, she told Dennis ‘The Roller’. That was his nickname because he was often found rolling squares (cigarettes) late at night in the warehouse with Lawyer Joe. “If you can’t be respectful and bow your head, you are free to go outside and wait till supper is over.”
Dennis wasn’t about to take a direct challenge lightly, though maybe it would cost him. “I believe I have a constitutional right to practice religion as I see it, or to practice a lack of religion. Forcing us to bow our heads isn’t right. We might do it to be nice, but being forced on threat of being put out is unfair and religions bullying.”
Soup Nazi Beatrice stared at The Roller like Satan had just risen up out of the floor and plopped down to eat her sacred bread. “You’ll bow your head Dennis or I’ll make an example out of your disrespect for those who come here to feed you. You’re lucky they give time to the homeless. The least you can do is bow your head even if you don’t believe.”
The irony and hypocrisy of that made Nano frown. He did a mental head shake. This was the nature of religions, cults, zealots and believers. Whatever they wanted or ask was right and everyone else was wrong. You can’t discuss logically such things with them, only bear it and move on. At least The Roller wasn’t going to be burned at a stake, drawn and quartered. or some other gruesome torture. He could only be punished relatively lightly for being disrespectful by not faking belief at the supper table.
“Hey Beatrice”, ask Lawyer Joe. He was a bit miffed that his friend The Roller had been dressed down and that anyone who didn’t want to participate in a religious ceremony was not entitled to just sit quietly and look around patiently for it all to be over. “If you were in Tibet at a supper and you were asked to recite a prayer to Buddha, would you do so out of respect for those feeding you, or would you show them disrespect by refusing them and thus insulting the hosts who were being kind enough to not only feed you, but bed you and show you around?”
“Okay that is enough” Soup Nazi stiffened. “You and Dennis leave now and stay out till supper is over. I don’t have to put up with your sinful, disrespectful ways during mandatory listening and prayer. Get out!”
Lawyer Joe, The Roller Dennis and Admiral Nano got up to leave, gathering their backpacks and heavy coats, for it was ten below zero outside and a stiff winter wind awaited them in the dark night.
“I didn’t say you had to go Nano” Soup Nazi said. “You can stay.”
“No thanks. I’m not hungry enough to swallow your religion. I’ll wait for breakfast tomorrow.” Nano smiled politely while several others around the table nearby laughed. A few hours was going to be a long time to sit and freeze like ice before they were let in again.