Seeing blue hands on a nearly unconscious friend I've come to love is a frightening moment.
Barely half an hour before this frightening moment began to unfold, I had been introducing "Casey" to the seven people from Urban Hope Church
who were visiting Emerald City with me. We were all engaged in conversation about an unusual recent event in Casey's life. Shortly thereafter, Casey rejoined the community under the bridge, prepared and injected her afternoon medicine
. That's when near tragedy joined her where she was sitting on the sidewalk and where God's intervention allowed me to be with her during it.
Casey's dose of medicine was either too much or made up of what she didn't expect it to be. Either way, she was overdosing just short of needing Narcan. Her hands were turning blue. Her pulse was week but present. She was breathing on her own, occasionally with moderate stimulation. It's that final point, breathing on her own, that the community uses to determine the need for Narcan. Narcan itself, while being a lifesaving agent, does carry certain after affects that can be unpleasant as I've been told by survivors of overdose. Addicted people will use it on each other as needed but only if REALLY needed.
Not even ten minutes before this, one of the women in the SUM program at Urban Hope
gave me a new copy of "Jesus Calling
" to give to someone in the community who I thought would appreciate it. As this group of seven was pulling away, I hopped in my Uplander and hopped back out. The perfect person to receive this book came to mind. It was then, as I was walking down the sidewalk to find that person that I saw Casey and stayed with her - as did members of the community - while she was in the most concerning portions of her situation. I tucked the book in my pocket and sat with Casey on the sidewalk for half an hour, maybe more.
Seeing fifteen added pounds on a person I've come to love is a joyful thing.
Earlier in my visit, I saw for the first time in probably forty days a woman who had been incarcerated for most of that time. Her eyes sparkled with renewed life and her cheeks were filled out. "I'm clean and I've gained fifteen pounds!" she said as she reached out for a hug with a renewed joyful and natural smile.
This is not the first time that I've seen renewed life in a person returning to Emerald City after time in jail. My biggest frustration with seeing them post-incarceration is that I'm seeing them there, in Emerald City or their other bridge community of choice. Why can't there be a guaranteed place filled with dignity and respect for jail-detoxed people to go that will foster their further cleansing and rehabilitation?
Seeing absolute determination to enter detox in one I've come to love is a joyful moment.
Recovery from addiction doesn't just happen. It's not like physical trauma where something horrible happens and the victim goes to the emergency room and begins immediate treatment. Recovery from addiction begins when the addicted person decides within them self that it is time to begin the process. Once that point has come, the person will probably have to stay in their homeless community for a few days while a bed can be found, insurance can be approved and transportation can be arranged.
Between the moment that the person decides to begin recovery and the time they get to that available bed, they must continue to consume their medicine. That means they will continue to stand in streets with their 'hungry' sign or walk the streets waiting for a 'date.' Sadly, for many, during that delay of days, determination withers like a flower that's not been watered and the person stays in their lifestyle maybe to be re-determined some time later. Between determination and re-determination, hunger signs and dates and the very real potential for overdose continues to be a part of everyday life.
For at least four months, "Bob" has been showing determination growing within his spirit as evidenced by our lengthy conversations. Yesterday, Bob's determination bloomed into action. We talked about one option for detox and recovery that really appealed to him. Anna is working on the details. If all goes as we pray it will, Bob will be leaving the streets of Kensington and moving into his new life early next week. Between now and then, he continues life on the street with his 'hungry' sign and his medicine.
As all of this was calming down, I drove around the block to the bridge community on Frankford Avenue to visit everyone and to find "Diane", the one person who I knew would really appreciate this book. While I had a nice visit with folks, she was not there. Diane is a charming devout Roman Catholic who loves our LORD, is fully addicted, who supports that addiction through 'dating' and who has very openly shared with me the conflict within her soul concerning those opposing aspects of her life.
I decided to drive around the block back to Emerald City to see if I could find Diane. "Dear LORD, if she's the one who should have this book, please help me find her." The light was green on Lehigh Avenue as I rounded the bend to turn onto Emerald. Diane was walking on the sidewalk of Emerald and turning onto Lehigh. We caught each other's eye. I pulled over to the side of the road as I motioned to her to come over for a moment. I met her on the street behind my Uplander. We hugged each other as I told her I had a book for her from a woman at Urban Hope. She saw the title: Jesus Calling, and began to cry. She said "Oh, Thank you so much, Chris." She apologized for needing to leave so quickly, turned and continued to walk down the sidewalk with a man.
Through Relational Ministry yesterday, I had the privilege to sit with a woman in serious medical trouble and realize another woman's healthy weight gain and appreciate the changes in her overall demeanor. I had the privilege of guiding a man into a possible detox experience and hand a sister in Christ a Christian book that she accepted with tears as she departed with a man.
I'm Loving This!
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