An old raggedy tennis ball slices blades of fresh cut grass at City Park as a chocolate lab stumbles after retrieving it in its jaws only to return again. Laughter gallantly echoes upon the warm summer breeze as children play. Families gathered picnics array while smoke ascends with savory smells. Couples strolling along cobblestone paths find cool relief beneath towering oak canopies. Birds, competing for crackers and seed, flock before benches receiving their meal.
Near the path and under a grand old oak lay a large weathered cardboard box. Those who passed by at times would notice a pair of worn shoes and dirty pant legs protruding from the opening of the carton. Others would just pretend they hadn’t noticed anything at all. And others, they would just not notice. Nothing, however, escapes the attention from within the weathered container.
A finely dressed business man approaches a bench and brushes it with a white handkerchief. Unpacking his lunch he settles down to take in the serenity of the city park, if only for thirty minutes escaping the pressures of business. As he turns about he notices the makeshift shelter situated under the tree only fifteen feet from the cobblestone path and the beach from which he now sits. “Where did that come from?” the finely dressed gentleman blurts out, “I did not notice that before. Some people have a nerve to clutter the beauty of this fine park!”
A policeman approaches while enjoying the cool summer breeze as he makes his rounds throughout the park. Breaking the silence of his thoughts a gentleman calls for his attention from one of the benches, “Officer! Officer!” Turning his attention toward the commotion the officer notices a well dress man in his forties standing near a bench and waving his arm, “Officer!”
The policeman approaches, “Yes sir, may I help you?”
“Yes you may!" The gentleman’s voice began to squeak with excitement, “I don’t know what kind of park you run around here, but I think its appalling that people are allowed to live where they please and ruin the beauty of the fine park!”
“Sir,” the officer began slowly, “I understand your concern, but there is nothing I can do about this matter. This is a public park, and unless a law is being broken…”
“Well,” interrupted the gentleman, “there should be a law…vagrancy is a law!”
“I’m sorry sir, is there anything else I may help you with?”
“No, I guess you can’t!” returned the indignant man.
“Have a good day, sir,” replied the officer as he turned and continued on his way enjoying the rays of the sun now breaking through clouds above.
The gentleman angrily turns toward the bench, gathers his lunch, and in a defiant tone gazes towards the container and mutters, “I hope you are happy, you ruined my lunch!” He then turns and walks towards the city streets.
A few moment later two women approach as they walk along the path conversing of activities past.
“I missed you at services the other morning.”
“I know, but Billy was running a temperature and I thought it best to keep him home,” answered the other.
“What’s that smell?” inquired the first.
“Is someone living in that carton?” the other woman asked pointing toward the tree.
“If only something could be done,” the first said.
“I know what you mean, but what can be done, there is just so many where would you begin?” the other questioned and then continued, “You should have heard what Billy said to me this morning.”
Without losing a step the two women continue along the path as their voices could be heard fading into the distance. From within his shelter a thud is heard. Another and another. Voices of several boys are then heard daring one another to go closer. Several stones now plummet the cardboard box. The man within grunts causing panic in the children as they run from his presence screaming and laughing.
With a clap of thunder rain begins to fall in City Park. An old man stirs from within a shelter. Emerging, he stretches forth his legs and looks around him. Walking toward the grassy field he gazes about at a deserted park. Bending over he picks up a tattered tennis ball, and lifting his eyes toward heaven as the rain falls upon his face leaving streaks of dirt and grime, calmly speaks, “Thank you Lord for sending the rain and cleaning this park once again.”
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