A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, June 10, 2014
What About Someone Who Doesn’t Feel Legit?
The time was later in the day. A grey, cold day for June, and had been raining most of the afternoon. At the tail end of some writing work, I needed to get everything finished before I left for the day. The preschool down the hall continued to empty—I heard the cars stopping and starting again with half an ear. As I sat at the desk and pounded the computer keys, the doorbell outside the front door rang. Hmm?
I went through the outer office and peered around the corner. A tall, sort of scruffy-looking man walked back towards his pick-up. Nice, newer model truck, I thought. I opened the door. “Hello!” I called, in my best friendly voice. The man stopped, turned around. Walked toward me. Older, rather than younger. Hair mostly grey, baseball-style cap with a few faint stains. Smaller handlebar mustache, even.
“Hello, ma’am.” He extended his hand. I introduced myself as the interim pastor. “Do you mind if I talk to you for a few minutes?” I smiled and made a welcoming gesture with my hand. “Certainly. Why don’t you have a seat?” As he passed by on the way to the pew against the wall, I got a clear whiff of alcohol. Coming out of his pores. He looked clear-eyed enough, but he must have been drinking quite a large amount recently to be in that kind of situation. I could smell the booze from five or six feet away.
Then the sad story came out. I must admit, he told it well. A contractor and carpenter for most of his life, doing some roofing more recently. With little touches like, breaking his back, both arms and a bunch of ribs by falling off a roof about two years ago. His aged parents had nursed him back to health. Then a long, almost fanciful description about his parents’ home in a small town—sounded almost idyllic. Except that there was hardly a job to be had in that area. So, because of back problems, and health issues, and herniated something-or-other, he had packed the truck and come back to the big city.
Now, here I intuited that he was telling the truth, amidst the fanciful fabrications. He made mention of a specific hospital where he was being treated. A ways from the church, but that did sound legit.
I interrupted him, and asked him in a kind voice, “I’ve been listening to your long, involved story for some time. What is the most important thing for you to ask me, right now?” He took a deep breath, looked at me with an assessing eye. Then made his pitch for money. “If you could see your way to giving me a little money for gas. That’s all I need.”
“I don’t have any money available right now, I’m afraid. But you mentioned that you were really hungry. You have lost lots of weight in the past weeks, you said, because you didn’t have food,” was my response, still in a kind voice. See, I had been listening. “And what you mentioned in your story? Sounds a lot like you did Step 4 and Step 5 with that priest. Making amends? Sounds like you were working Steps 8 and 9.” His eyes narrowed. The corner of his mouth twitched—not favorably. “Yeah, I heard about that stuff . . . “ he replied, slowly. “I guess.”
I stood up and walked down the hall to the other side of the narthex. He followed. On the table stood two boxes with the collection for the local food pantry. “I’m sorry I don’t have any money, but you are welcome to any of this food.” He cast an eye over the gathered food and grabbed some cans of vegetables. He thanked me, but his bright story-telling persona had gone away. I had a suspicion it might. On the way out the door, he asked me whether I knew of any other churches nearby. Sure, I mentioned a large Catholic church about seven or eight blocks away. Right down the street. “Oh.” Again the twitch with his mouth, and he mentioned something about already going there, before.
As I sent him on his way with the cans of vegetables and an encouraging smile, I felt a twinge of sadness. I knew about the solution for some of his difficulties, at least. Since I have a certification as Alcohol and Drug Counselor, I know about the help that comes from the 12 Steps and from the recovery program. But he did not seem open to hearing about that, at all. God, I listened to him. I provided him with some food, and gave him encouraging smiles. But God, I didn’t give him what he most wanted, perhaps what he most needed. Money for alcohol. I pray for him. I pray that he can find the solution for his problems. And find You, God, in the process.
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