When the fellow shuffled in, there was no mistaking the despair in his eyes. I didn’t get his name, but he looked like he’d lost his best friend. I absent mindedly listened while I was… you guessed it! Rolling toilet paper.
Wendy asked him how he’d been. He smiled and talked about the weather for a few minutes.
“Wendy… I done throwed away a whole year, clean and sober. I had a YEAR. And I just went out and blew it last night. And here I was, just about to get my own place, too, off the streets.”
Wendy didn’t skip a beat. “Well, you know what it’s you gotsa do. You need ta pick yoself up and keep on walkin. No sitting in the dumps about it. Lord God has power for you right here. You gotsa pick it up! There ain’t no weapon formed against you shall prosper!”
She continued to speak encouragement into this downtrodden addict. I sat and tried not to stare as I heard some of the best counsel for someone in recovery I’ve ever heard.
“We was right there, right there in those streets TOGETHER, weren’t we?” She reminisced.
The addict agreed enthusiastically, looking at me as if to let me in on his secret about the saint in the shelter.
“And yet, here I am. Workin an honest job. Clean for all these years now. And who did it? Lord God did it ALL. You need to grab hold with faith. Believe and walk it, son. You wake up every day and what do you see?”
“I see the streets here. The folks all strung out and shit. Every day. I don’t wanna go there no more!”
“Thas right. And you know somethin? You needsa see it every day. We need ta see it so we ain’t gotta be it! We got the hope they need. We need to remember who we are and where we been so we don’t go back there.”
The addict began to talk again, explaining the details of how he fell into using again. Wendy cut him off.
“You know what you need? You need to stop talking and you need to be doin.” And with that she handed him her daily devotional book and sat him down in a corner to read. She shushed him anytime he tried to talk until he was done. Then she sent him back into skid row to walk out what she planted in him.
I was glad Wendy put on her armor.
She picked up her Bible as I was cleaning the bathroom and read out loud, “call on the name of the Lord and he will save you, and your whole household.”
My mind started to deconstruct the verse and make assumptions about it’s meaning in regards to personal salvation and family members.
But not Wendy. Within a moment, I hear Wendy praying, “Oh Lord Jesus. Thas right. I believe. Save me and all my brothers and sisters on the streets.”
Wow. My paradigm got clean kicked in the teeth and fell down for the knockout.
From the first day I was at the shelter I have been noticing a stocky, bald, soft spoken man named Eric. He stands out because he wears this thick cloak of wisdom and pain and joy all at once that is unlike anyone else in the place. I’ve never spoken with him. He only talks to vets. He’s the vet case worker. He looks like the human version of an ox. I read somewhere that when a burden is too heavy for an ox, it’ll drop to it’s knees and keep going. Eric looks like that.
Today he was looking over his glasses at a vet and got stern with him. Eric gets stern the way my grandfather did. Instead of raising his voice, he lowers it. “You need to either be in the meeting in the morning or give up your 24 hour bed. Those are your options. There are no other options.”
Wendy raised an eyebrow and whispered to me, “Woowee. Eric don’t get angry less someone really deserves it. He will give and give. Endless kindness, he’s got.”
No kidding. Eric also apparently deals with a lot of heavy life issues, too, working with vets all day. Within an hour he was assisting firefighters and police into his office after calling 911 for someone who didn’t see a reason to see tomorrow.