The Man In The Basement

“What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.”
C.S. Lewis

He carried a huge disarming smile. This wandering man seemed to win everyone over. I first noticed Gideon, or was he Linde or Jack (no one knows his real name) when he washed cars in the garage basement of my apartment building. He did so with his usual charming disposition and his sense of doing something vital and meaningful. My first guess was this stout and well rounded man of anything between 50-60 years old was the local gent hired to clean vehicles. Was this only a portion of the real story?

I also observed that he functioned as a car guard outside the building entrance. He sat on the yellow fire hydrant like a sentry guarding a battalion. He would sit upright, regal and scan the little side lane with diligence. He always appeared content and completely in the moment. I now figured that he lived nearby and was trusted by the residents to watch over their possessions. On another day, I saw Gideon with a huge bag traversing the grassy traffic island that was found between two main streets. He found a comfortable spot, opened his bag and began to empty pieces of bread to the hundred or more pigeons that surrounded this genteel man. He clearly relished in his task and enjoyed every moment of being appreciated by the birds of heaven. Long after the bag was empty, Gideon continued to dwell among the birds and he was clearly their friend and provider. Was there even more to this man than met the eye?

One evening while driving into the basement parking I was quite surprised to see Gideon inside the garage, with one leg elegantly poised on the lowest garage bars. He stepped aside, let me drive in and waved good night. I then saw Gideon walk into a small room at the far corner of the parking area. Was he living in the basement? I became curious and thought I would observe him a little closer. To my surprise on a Saturday morning I noticed a huge rack of clothing – mostly men’s shirts all neatly clean and washed drying in the slight breeze in his little room. Thoughtful residents had passed on their wares to him so that he will be well clothed. Many of his needs were taken care of and Gideon seemed highly appreciative of all that he had. During one of the spiritual holidays, I noticed Gideon all spruced up and looking elegant. He had decided to celebrate with his fellow neighbours.

I decided to get some facts on Gideon and spoke to the security guards that oversee building. Stephanus who who knew Gideon for 10 years was willing to share his version of the life of Gideon. He noted that Gideon was homeless and unemployed and had slept in the garden in front of the building. This was very risky as he had to often fight off other displaced people who found their way to the Durban beachfront. Apart from this threat, there were local police raids that stripped people of their limited living possessions. I was then told that a resident in the building had decided that Gideon could sleep in front of her car at night. While still feeling the cold of the concrete flooring, Gideon was happy that was now protected from all types of external threats.

A period of time passed and the residents began to engage him in a multiplicity of services that began to earn him a trusted presence in the basement and boundaries of the building. A decision was then taken that Gideon be given the little basement room that would usually house cleaning equipment and unwanted furniture. Gideon felt that he had arrived home. That is where he continues to dwell and fill his day with purpose. I know that he carries something in him that eludes many people who live in upmarket areas seemingly protected by the things money can buy. Maturity tells us that none of us are protected but that all of us have available the gift of simplicity, humility and daily divine provision. I wonder what adventure Gideon will have tomorrow?

Reflection

  1. Are you hiding behind your white picket fence?
  2. Have you lost the ability to enjoy the simplicity of daily miracles?
  3. Are you frustrated that expensive gadgets do not bring peace?
  4. How can you begin to enjoy the daily pleasures that do not require finances?

Written by Dr Rani Samuel
Clinical Psychologist