Two boys in white sneakers |

Two boys in white sneakers

Being retired has advantages. One of those is staying home on bad weather days. However, once in awhile necessity rears its ugly head and you end up going out in the rain. That’s exactly what happened one day last week.

My son Doug and I finished our business and pulled into Louie’s Home Center for some needed supplies. It was pouring buckets just at that moment, and I saw a young man running down the sidewalk. He had a backpack over his shoulders and was wearing jeans, a jacket and white sneakers. Those white shoes caught my eye and brought back a memory, one better forgotten.

It’s a funny thing how frequently — in many of the moments in life that appear seemingly insignificant — some memories simply will not go away. I watched that young man outside of Louie’s as he ran to Jerry’s Restaurant, remembering another young man in white sneakers that I’d seen years ago when I was still working for the Reno Gazette Journal in Carson City.

Having made arrangements to meet a friend for dinner, I was heading up Carson Street through a rushing stream of rainwater flowing down the sides of the buildings like Niagara Falls. A young man came toward me dressed only in a light jacket, jeans and white sneakers. It was bitter cold that day, with a moody sky as dark and ugly as a black and blue bruise. He had to be freezing.

It took me a minute to turn around to see where he was heading. There were four or five establishments in that block, and he’d disappeared into one of them. I don’t know what I was thinking, what I could have done, or would have done, but that young man in those white sneakers haunted me into the night. His appearance screamed of his being homeless.

That night sleep wouldn’t come. Just before midnight I got up, walking in my bare feet to my bedroom window. Outside on Fifth Street, cars were moving through the water that swooshed around them as they passed by, some heading for a late shift at a casino or heading home. Not too many people were out at that hour. I went to my living room and slipped open the front door a tiny crack.

Cold damp air pushed its way inside, invading the warmth and reminding me it was indeed a winter night. Shutting the door, I moved to the windows and looked out at a nearby courtyard. There, some of the occupants were moving about, and out in the back parking lot my little Toyota sat under an aluminum carport, safe and dry.

By now I could see enough in my apartment’s dim light to recognize the furniture. My TV, chairs, tables and lamps, were all waiting for me to enjoy the comfort of my living room. A microwave, toaster, coffee maker and mixer were on my kitchen counter. The refrigerator is laden with food. I want for little. Heading down the hall I stepped into my bathroom.

Gazing into the mirror at my shadowy figure that I could just barely see, I then went back to my room. From somewhere outside I heard the clanging of a clock. It was now midnight and I needed to get some sleep. Getting into bed I put my head down between two clean, white sheets, covered myself with a warm blanket. My soft pillow felt wonderful.

I stared at my closet where inside were comfortable clothes, and in my bureau were plenty of the other items we all take for granted. All of these thoughts were buzzing around inside of my head that wintery night in Carson City, as I remembered that homeless young man in white sneakers. I thought also, of street people and bag ladies I’d seen in New York and other metropolitan cities.

One of the days I was needed at my company’s main office, I observed the homeless and hungry standing on the streets in Reno. There they stood, patiently waiting at a mission for a meal. Many of them had no place to go, no home, nothing but the clothes on their backs. All I could think about, as I tried to sleep in my warm, comfortable bed was where that young boy in white sneakers was sleeping.

My prayer that night was short and simple: “God, take care of that boy, whomever he is, and thank you God for all that I have.”

Edna Van Leuven is a Churchill County writer and columnist. She may be reached at