Not long ago, a good friend of mine called me. A friend of his had gotten into trouble, and was now in a halfway house in Nashville. He asked if I would visit him, and maybe take him a toothbrush and some underwear. I agreed and made my way there one evening.
When I got there, I sat with my friend’s friend on the back deck of the halfway house and talked about how he ended up there. As we talked, another man came out on the deck, lighting up his cigarette as he sat down. There was a weathered look about him. He had dark, leathery skin, and looked like he had endured the sun, the rain, and the wind for long, long time. I couldn’t tell how old he was, but I was sure that he was younger than he looked.
Through a bit of conversation, I found out that he had been on the streets for many, many years. And he was at the halfway house because he wanted to see if he could dry out and come off the streets. He told me that being inside made him nervous and he liked to stay out on the deck as long as he could at night. He felt safe under the familiar stars, and claustrophobic and nervous in his new bedroom.
Without my asking, he launched into describing life as a homeless man.
How he got food; how he stayed warm; how he got money. And then he told me something that caught my attention.
He said, “Ya want to know how I keep my stuff safe at night?”
“Sure,” I replied.
“I put it up in the trees.”
“Why is it safe in the trees?” I asked.
“Homeless guys are always looking for treasure on the ground,” he said. “We never look up.”
“Could you say that again?” I asked, knowing that something profound had just been uttered.
“The homeless are always looking for treasure on the ground – coins, something someone’s dropped, half-smoked cigarettes. I know if I put my stuff in trees, they’ll never find it because they never look up. Never.”
Profound words from an unexpected place. And his message is for all of us.
You and I are always hunting for treasure, aren’t we?
We’re looking for treasure on this earth, in the next big thing, in the perfect relationship, or in that deal that will finally help us achieve financial stability (or the illusion of it). We all have our particular search. But what we are REALLY looking for is right there above us. In fact, it’s surrounding us.
Perhaps this Advent season, we will take the time to avert our eyes to the heavens – to a star shining brightly – announcing good news, great joy, and abundant treasure.
There’s really nothing we need on the ground.