The heat this summer was brutal. It was brutal for those of us who are blessed with air conditioned homes. Imagine living on the streets during 114 degree temperatures. This is how we met Mikey:
I looked up from wiping the counter to see a man standing on the front sidewalk, arms outstretched with a thermos jug gripped tightly in his hands. He was shaking from head to toe. Several of us ran to the front door to meet him. He just stood there mumbling incoherently and trembling, holding out his thermos. It was empty.
His hair was bleached nearly white from the sun, and his who knows how many days worth of red-blond stubble slightly camouflaged a scarred cleft lip. Fair-skinned, cherry-red sunburn shined blindingly through the veil of caked dirt, and a flaky, white film encrusted his pale, cracked lips.
We brought him into Joe’s and led him to one of the comfy armchairs. As I ran next door to the convenience store to buy some Gatorade, I anxiously asked God if we should call an ambulance. When I returned to Joe’s, the ladies there had wetted towels with cool water and placed them on his head. They were washing his face and arms with the cool cloths.
Some of the other homeless guys who hang out at Joe’s began to speak up about him. His name was Mikey and he lived near them, down the street, in a patch of trees. Since this was the first I’d met him, I didn’t know if his incoherent mumbling was normal or because of heat stroke. They told me they didn’t really know, because he “pretty much keeps to himself.”
As we asked one another if we ought to call an ambulance, Mikey shook his head no. He was coming around.
Over the next few days, we learned more about Mikey. He had lived at a halfway house nearby for some time, but had been expelled for not paying his rent. We also learned that the reason he stayed to himself was because the other homeless guys made fun of him, sometimes beat him up and took his stuff.
Mikey is simple, and besides the cleft lip, he has difficulty speaking and walks with a stiffness that sometimes causes him to stumble and fall. These traits make him a prime target for bullies——and they have for all forty years of his life.
Chris, manager and a minister at Joe’s, took it upon himself to find out the scoop on Mikey and the halfway house. He discovered that Mikey had applied for Social Security Disability, but he had never completed the process. He had missed appointments, not returned documents, passed deadlines. His case was stalled for lack of follow-through.
Well, duh! As we came to know Mikey, it became clear that he could never fulfill these requirements on his own. He is disabled! Sometimes Mikey doesn’t know what day it is. He certainly wouldn’t remember to be at an appointment at a given time on a specific day. He had no vehicle of his own, and understanding/navigating the inadequate public transportation of Oklahoma City——no way! There was a reason Mikey’s Social Security application was never completed. He needed help.
Chris (who’s own story of redemption I have told before) decided to become Mikey’s advocate. (I hope that Chris will write his own version of his experience with Mikey, as it is the continuation of God making beauty from ashes!) The day came for a formal hearing before a Judge who would determine whether or not Mikey should be qualified to receive disability benefits.
I will never forget the afternoon at Joe’s as we awaited the news. Here came Chris and Mikey walking into the shop, beaming——smiles from ear to ear. Mikey raised his arms like an athlete at the finish line celebrating his victory, and loudly declared, “We won!” Chris hurried into the kitchen, where head held in his hands, he openly sobbed, “What a privilege. What a privilege to represent those who cannot defend themselves.”
Not only did the Judge grant a disability check to be paid to Mikey on a monthly basis, but he awarded “back pay” retroactive to the date of his original application! With the money awarded, we helped Mikey purchase a travel trailer that more than adequately meets his needs. Mikey no longer lives in the trees down the street from Joe’s, but is enjoying his new home and his two puppies that he lavishes with love and affection every day.
(In previous posts I have used the name “Carl” for Chris. He now desires me to use his real name.)