Friday, July 2, 2010


"One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God."

Every time I read the above Scripture quote I think of an old time favorite St. Mary's Bookstore street guy, Paul. He came in loaded one day, slouched at the rosary counter, and when asked just why he was so plastered, responded, "My dear, it's clear in Scripture, 'one does not live by bread alone.'"
Paul hung around Nashville for years and years. His days ranged from completely sober and attending daily Mass to completely out of his mind (sometimes still attending Mass). For years, my mother helped him through every day she possibly could. He was a self proclaimed artist, sketching portraits of Jesus, looking like, well, himself. How appropriate! He received oil dividends from his uncle in Louisiana which we cashed and tried to divide out so as to last him for longer periods of time on the street. When he cashed big ones and we did not help him make them last, he'd stay in hotels and ride in cabs and drink massive amounts all over the city, allowing other street people to steal from him. Difficult for us to understand and yet explained by another street person, "Most of us just want to be living on the streets. We love the freedom despite the danger. You just need to leave us be. You could never understand." And, SHE was right. But my mom accepted Paul's craziness and his wild talk and loved him for who he was, a man who did not live on bread alone and not merely on every Word that comes from God. She bought him a pair of glasses, clothes, shoes, Bibles and books, charcoal and drawing paper, and food. She gave him her time and attention. We learned as years passed that Paul was a very educated man who partied and messed with wild "new" drugs and who watched his girlfriend kill herself. Of course, he was never, ever the same. He was Catholic and we would often spot him out in the back parking lot offering his confession to a priest. He made many friends and we would see him all over the city depending on how much money he had at the time. He always talked about retreats and I assumed he meant those he attended in his mind until one day a customer remarked that he had seen him at Gethsemane. Now can you imagine? After 10 or 12 or 15 years of dealing with Paul off and on for weeks at a time, he disappeared. Occasionally I think I see him around town, only to get closer and find it's not him. I can only hope and pray that he has received the help he so longed for and yet never really wanted. I personally am better from watching my mother care for him and reprimand him and love him just as he was, one who did not live on bread alone. Paul, I hope you have somehow, somewhere, found peace.

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