‘I hope I find a bed tonight,” a Dutch woman imprisoned in a concentration camp bordering Germany during World War II wrote in a letter I’ve read.

I was startled to see almost the same thought in a boldface headline on the Portland Press Herald’s front page late last month, quoting a woman who uses one of the city’s homeless shelters – these two separated by miles of history, oceans and continents, suddenly joined, at least in my imagination.

How divergent yet not incommensurable these two lives, that of Etty Hillesum, the Dutch woman, and Lori Godin, the Portland woman, whom the Press Herald wrote about in a March 23 story on the city’s “embattled shelters.”

Hillesum wrote of concern over a bed to sleep in while being held prisoner at a camp called Westerbork, on the Netherlands border with Germany, where the Nazis held Dutch Jews sent on to Auschwitz some 70 years ago.

“Will I get a bed tonight?” Godin said to a Press Herald staff writer. Though working full time, cleaning rooms, vacuuming, replenishing bathroom towels at a South Portland hotel, Godin was homeless and using the Oxford Street Shelter, hoping to receive a “yes” to her question.

What I hear, feel resonant in both voices is the anxiety about something common to us all, evoking questions with spiritual overtones.

Clients of Portland’s shelters wait queued up in lines for the answer to that question, hoping to be one of some 200 people handed a sheet and blanket and foam mat to call theirs, “even though it can mean a restless night of crowding, disturbances and vulnerability … exposed to some who have been drinking, or using drugs or others who can be delusional or violent,” the Press Herald reported.

“Night, on my plank bed,” Hillesum wrote from Westerbork, “surrounded by women, girls, snoring and dreaming aloud, sobbing and tossing and turning, the many too many impressions of a much too long day washing over me.”

The resonance between these women’s voices pulls at my heart, though I’m far from feeling what it’s like not to know where I’ll rest my head come night. Still, can we hear them? What are the spiritual questions they call us to?

I am not unmindful of the “me first” spirit in myself, the one in my heated, idling Honda who doesn’t open the window alongside a woman holding up the word “Homeless” scrawled across cardboard at the traffic light at Marginal Way and Franklin, thinking, no, not again.

And I am mindful of the danger in drawing specious parallels between these disparate circumstances. Nonetheless, more questions whirl in.

What does it mean that a week later, another woman, also quoted in a story on the Press Herald’s front page, voiced concern “in a phone interview from her year-round home in Deerfield Beach, Florida, over an expected rise in the cost of her $7,500 yearly flood insurance” – while our governor, who says he’s for the working people, vetoes a raise in the minimum wage, and while Godin makes 16 beds a day at the South Portland hotel where she works and is unable to afford rent for an apartment?

Maybe I’m on thin ice joining too many dots here. Maybe I’ve already fallen through for anyone still reading, but I can’t help the questions, which keep flying in at velocities that defy answers. How much of Portland are we willing to sell in the name of development, or progress? Development for whom? Progress of what?

What kind of community are we creating here? How many downtown hotels have gone up in the last decade – two? three? – at least seven. Seven hotels – and, of course, that’s added to those that were already here.

The pundits cry out – “Jobs!” Yes, a lot of beds to be made by the Lori Godins, at $8.75 an hour, which isn’t enough for someone working full time to rent an apartment in Portland’s existing market.

One more voice tugs at me for attention, that of Samuel Beckett, speaking through his raffish, vagrant character Vladimir in “Waiting for Godot”: “Was I sleeping while the others suffered? Am I sleeping now? Tomorrow, when I wake, or think I do, what shall I say of today?”

As a poet and performer, at 78, I can’t help wondering how long before I won’t be able to afford living here, or be living in the Portland I’ve grown to love? This has been the longest Maine winter I can remember in 35 years. I try reassuring myself on a morning walk along the Eastern Prom, the sun like a worn nickel over the harbor, and pull my jacket collar close.