Facebook posts and responses drowned me this week. Yuck. Just yuck. Today, I spent time in my community with the people that I love, doing what I love.
We have a new young man who is living outside that just came into our community a couple of weeks ago. I have been helping him with practicalities of legal paperwork. Today he sat down next to me and started talking. He told me lots of his life story. So much pain. So much hardship. The most recent chapter was how he lost his job loading and unloading metal from trucks at a recycling business. He was injured on the job, and so he started scrapping metal himself to pay the bills.
One day, pulling a large piece of cast iron out of the back of his vehicle, he miscalculated distance. One end dropped to the ground, thrusting the other end upward. He was knocked unconscious. When he awoke in the hospital, days later, he was diagnosed with a form of amnesia that causes his short-term memory to reset every few hours. He has been living on the street ever since. Today we set up a notebook for him to keep track of important details.
Most of our friends who live outside are relatively clean and relatively healthy. Relatively. We actually have some of the best-dressed homeless people in the city, because of our Free Store. However, a friend who I haven't seen in a few months showed up today. He was filthy. Dirt and grime in every orifice. Hair matted in unintended dreadlocks. His clothing reeked of bodily fluids. Immediately it became clear that he has not been taking his medication. He rattled stories to me about having been in California and New York and the people he had seen there, the thousands of dollars he owns and the stuff he'd done. I just listened. His bright blue eyes sparkled as he told his tales. When his words began to trail off into mumbles, I asked him if he is warm at night. He said, "I have a cellar." I knew the place. A stairwell where he sleeps. It's a good wind break. I asked if he needed hand warmers. "No," he said, "I'm fine." He ducked his head low, and then said quietly, "I could use something to eat though."
As I turned to go make him a cheeseburger, I nearly ran into the new guy. He was standing inches from me. I looked at his face wondering, “Dude! Why so close?!” Then I realized. He’d been standing at my elbow to protect me. He was concerned. Watching out for me. I smiled and thanked him. He said, “I’m right here, Miss Jamie. You let me know if you need anything.” Sweetness.
I served the burger on a nice plate with a pickle and a bag of chips, but he wrapped it in the napkin and shoved it in his pocket. He was out the door, mumbling as he went. We may not see him again for days or weeks.
And . . . I am grounded once again.