John Michael

Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise XL: Are You Lonely?

(Photo by Jonathan Rados on Unsplash)

John Michael continues his series Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise, reflecting on life and people encountered, he wants to know, during these times of COVID, are you lonely?


My last year on the streets, thanks to some spring wildflowers in Texas and a small miracle involving Jesus, I started to feel better. I’m going to tell a couple of stories here that will hopefully help you understand why I have been against lockdowns from the beginning, why I would still be against them if friends were dying all around me.

One night during that last year, someone gave me some money. And instead of beating myself up for taking it, I was excited to have it. I was on the streets with some PTSD from an event that happened in my childhood. I was violently and sexually attacked by a man who had pretended to be a friend for over a year. The ironic part is I never trusted that guy for a second anyway. But, as a kid, I really didn’t know how to handle the situation and was already a people pleaser at nine. So, I just hid my uncomfortable feelings from myself and their solution from myself, I guess.

I had been out there on the streets for seven years not talking to anyone, essentially, and barely tolerating people who wanted to talk to me; it just created too much anxiety. So, with some excitement and money in my hand, I stood up and headed out looking for a little human interaction. I had to sit back down for a minute because the loneliness I was hiding from myself all those years washed over me for a second. I have been coming out of that loneliness and entering my peace and joy ever since.

I intentionally lived homeless on the streets of Portland for a couple of years after my initial time out there, just to make some friends and hear the stories of the people who found themselves living that way. They are not all stories of childhood trauma, by the way.


We were a lonely, desperate people long before COVID, and lockdowns have only added to it. Are you loving? Or are you secretly crying out for love?


One night, a college friend of mine who lived in Portland came downtown and took me out to dinner. I was rolling a shopping cart around at the time and I am sure my lovely, well-dressed friend and I made quite a pair rolling around and talking like old friends.

Despite a lot of emotional healing, I was still packing quite a bit of rage and anger at the time. So, I was a little surprised when some fella started pitching me some shit and calling me names. For some reason, in that moment, I recalled a passage from A Course in Miracles: “There is only love and cries for love.”

So, instead of answering his anger with my own, I asked him, “Are you lonely?”

The young man, to my surprise, started crying. We had a short conversation, and I don’t remember a lot of it, but he admitted that he was very lonely.

Are you lonely?

There is a COVID story out of Canada about a healthy woman in her 90s who decided to have herself euthanized instead of going through any more lockdowns away from the people she loved.

This summer, I was chatting with a woman who was pushing her walker around a care facility that my mom was in. She moved in there because she didn’t want to be a burden on her family as she needed a little extra care. But, having visitors limited, she too admitted she was tired of it and was hoping that death would come soon.

How many people in nursing homes do you imagine feel that very same way? How many of you secretly feel the very same way?

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Walden (1854) Henry David Thoreau

We were a lonely, desperate people long before COVID, and lockdowns have only added to it. Are you loving? Or are you secretly crying out for love?

Dancing, singing, artistic expression, exercise can all help with loneliness, but nothing eases it like knowing you are not alone in the world. Authentic emotional friendship and human kindness are the medicine we are in need of right now.

Are you crying out for love? Hobo John here, I love you with everything that I have, and I always will.


John Michael

Hello, good people. I am rarely sure how to describe myself. If I say I am a Christian, many things may arise in your mind that ain't necessarily so. I was homeless for seven years and learned more about myself in that stretch of time than in any other segment of my life. I read the Bible a lot out there and came across a passage in Proverbs that has shaped my approach to life: "A man's pursuit is his kindness." I am well educated with a Master of Social Work degree and have worked a wide variety of jobs in my 52 years. None have lasted too long however. When I was homeless, the beauty of Texas wildflowers made me decide to want to live again. Along with kindness, beauty, play, and self-expression are life-guiding ideas. My shadow contains things like feeling sorry for myself, a truckload of defiance, a desperate need to please women, and no small amount of cruelty. A quote from Luke also has had a lasting effect on me: "For God is kind to the ungrateful and the evil." When I read that I thought, "Hell, I have got a fighting chance." I am here to tell you, you have a fighting chance as well. Besides Christianity, practicing Buddhist and Shamanic techniques inform my relationship to God and the world.

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