Please Know...

As I come to know these fine people, they share with me more of their personal and sensitive stories. Their collective story is what I am trying to share with you as my way of breaking the stereotypical beliefs that exist. "Blog names" have occasionally been given to me by the person whose story I am telling. Names are never their actual names and wherever I can do so, I might use the opposite pronoun (his/her, etc.) just to help increase their privacy.


Friday, July 7, 2017

Natural and Normal Until The End

Each time I head toward Kensington, I'm never sure who I'll find of the several homeless addicted people I've come to know.  Some, with whom I 've had significant conversations, seem to have moved on.  Ian now has a job.  Gina, I think, is in some form of a recovery program. Mike is, well, I'm not sure.  David and Autumn are professionals at being homeless and addicted and so I've backed off on "helping" them.  I do keep in touch with them as able.  And then there are the countless mostly younger men who do what they can to earn a legitimate income by opening doors at stores or washing windows on cars.

That leaves Mickey and it is from her that I'm learning a great deal.  I went to Kensington early Thursday afternoon, arriving at about 2:30 pm.  This left 4.5 hours until the Faith Based Recovery meeting to which I hope to take a person or two.

I drove around for a bit as I looked for anyone I knew or others with whom to chat.  After one pass between the Wawa on Aramingo and the Tracks, Mickey almost magically appeared at the back of the Wawa.  She told me that she'd barely eaten since I saw her four days earlier.  I asked where she'd like to go and she mentioned Popeye's Chicken.  And so off we went, up Aramingo...

Unlike other times when I've taken Mickey to get something to eat, this time we went inside, ordered from the counter, received our order, went to a table and had dinner together.  She had a two piece chicken dinner with macaroni and cheese plus a Cajun rice with added brown gravy.  I had a three-piece chicken strip dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy.  My drink was a vanilla Bark's Root Beer and Mickey's was an iced tea.  She sat directly across from me at a table designed for four people.

Why did I just explain all that detail to you?  Here's why....

I want you to understand that this dining experience could have been had by you and your child, date, spouse, platonic friend, your sports buddy or any socially accepted combination of two people.  In our case, it was between a typically socially unacceptable combination of me and a triple addicted homeless 29-year-old woman who has been living on the street for four years.  We had a reasonable conversation and equally enjoyed moments of silence just as any combination of two people would have during a regular meal together.

Afterward, we went to Walmart where Mickey found a nice pink-faced watch, a six-pack of women's rings and some smell good spray for her hair plus some cream for her aching feet.  The total bill was not even $20.00.  Mickey showed great restraint and courtesy in not spending more than what was needed for a few nice items that helped her feel better about herself.

And that's the point of this blog.

Mickey, just like every person you see on a street corner or at a store "panhandling" for money, is a human being who very much wants life to be "normal."  This was made even more evident in Mickey's expressions of joy and the life in her eyes as we wrestled to unbind her new watch from its casing and the rings from their cardboard prison.  Once that was done, she primped herself up with her new spray as she straightened her short hair while looking into the mirror that is attached to the passenger side sun visor of my van.

Again, I share these details with you to help you see that all of these activities are such that anyone would do if they were there to do them.  There's nothing abnormal in any of it.

I was so taken by the normality of Mickey's actions and the joy in her eyes and expression that I commented to her.  "I don't understand why you're living on the street."  Everything you're doing is totally normal and reasonable.  You have life in your eyes unlike some homeless and addicted people I've come to know."  She smiled and said, "Thank you."

Between each of these places, we parked in the corresponding parking lot and listened to the radio and chatted for a short time.  Mickey seemed to greatly appreciate the opportunity to just be herself and not the frightened homeless person that she is as she wanders alone from store to store in hopes of being tossed a quarter.

And that's another thing about Mickey.  On two occasions as we entered or exited stores, SHE WAS ASKED BY A HOMELESS PERSON standing outside the store and who she did not know if she had some change.  In both cases, she approached that person and placed her own quarter directly into their hand being sure to close that person's fingers around that quarter.  I was stunned by her gentle and caring thoughtfulness.  As I type this, I can't help but be reminded that we often minister to others most successfully out of our own brokenness.  Mickey knows what it is like to have change thrown at her and hit her in the face.  I've seen it happen to her.  Mickey is not about to have that happen to any homeless person for whom she can provide a coin.

Toward the end of our time together, we pulled into a large shopping center parking lot and parked off to one side.  Mickey looked through the selection of clothes that I had available for her and she changed into them in my van while I took a short walk.  She felt respected and trusted; respected that I didn't stay in the van and trusted that I allowed her to be in my running van alone.  Again, while a bit unusual - OK... a lot unusual to use my van as a changing room - this moment gave Mickey dignity as compared to the guard at Wawa following her through the store each time she dares to walk in.

Four hours after this time with Mickey started, I invited her to come to the recovery meeting at 7 pm.  She declined with a smile and a hint that some other day might work and so off I went.  The meeting turned out to be a Memorial service for one of the founding members of the group who had overdosed earlier in the week.  I was shaken by that.

On my way out of town, I stopped to see if Mickey or any of my regulars were at the Wawa.  Mickey was in the back parking lot, standing there and looking lost and alone.  I asked her if she needed anything to eat and she said no but asked for a sweet tea.  I got it and an ice cream for myself.  I love my evening ice cream.  I came out and told her about the memorial service and how sad it was.  I told her not to die from her drugs and that I'd be sad if she overdosed.  She looked at me with a sense of - well - I'm not sure.  It was as if she'd never thought that anyone could care enough to say such a thing to her.

All of the natural and normal behaviors within our interactions of that day as I have just described were counterbalanced by the most unnatural behavior of all for that day.  It was that moment when I said goodnight and left Mickey standing alone in the relative darkness and dampness of that night in the back parking lot knowing that she would have no indoors to call her own.


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