Archive for September 24, 2015

St. Nick

Posted: September 24, 2015 in Dialog, Prose
Tags: , , ,

24 September 2015

I stopped briefly to talk to Rhea. She was eating an egg salad sandwich from a plastic bag. Beside her was a juice box and an energy bar. I said, “It looks like the sandwich guys (volunteers from the Innercity Ministries Outreach Program) have made their rounds.”

“Yeah, Shawn and Mike came by. They’re good people.”

“How have you been sleeping?” I asked.

“It’s been good these past few days. I see a psychologist this afternoon. I really find it hard talking about my accident. It’s hard to remember things. I remember riding in the ambulance, but I can’t remember what happened immediately before that.”

“Why were you up on a fifty foot cliff?”

“It was my eighteenth birthday. I was high on drugs with a couple of friends. When I was in hospital I asked one friend what happened and he acted all shifty like. So, I don’t know whether I fell or was pushed. I had two breaks in my femur, throat injury, a fractured skull and some brain damage It was eight years ago now so there’s nothing I can do about it. I have to be careful eating because of my restricted windpipe. If something went down the wrong way I could die.”

I said, “So if your accident happened eight years ago, that means that you’re twenty-six now. Is that right?”

“Yeah, I have a baby face and look a lot younger. It’s a problem sometimes.”

I said, “I promised Nick that I’d visit with him this afternoon, so I’ll see you on my way back.”

Nick was standing near the park railing. We shook hands and I asked him, “How is your health now?”

“It’s okay, my blood sugar level is at about three. At one time it was fifty-six. That was when I was panning on the streets. I didn’t take care of myself then. Now I’m careful. I may share a joint or a tug from a bottle, but it’s only to be sociable. It’s sharing.

“Diabetes is the reason I lost my job. I used to be a Tower Crane Operator. From where I was sitting a man down below looked like an ant. We communicated through hand signals and by radio. Sometimes I would lose consciousness, or I’d be at the back peeing. I had to pee a lot. After a few missed calls they sent me to the union doctor. He said that I should see my family physician. The doctor took some tests and asked me, ‘Did you know that you are diabetic?’

“The union doctor knew what was wrong. He told my boss and that was it for working the Tower. They offered me another job operating a Shunt Locomotive to move rail cars around. It was a demotion and it was boring. I didn’t like that, so I quit.

“I’ve had a few heart attacks in the past month and a half.”

I asked, “Was it due to stress?”

“Yeah, sometimes when I come home my head is so full. People dying in my arms, beatings…you know what it’s like. That’s when I talk to God. I say, ‘Please help me God. Lift this burden that is weighing me down. Please help the homeless people on the streets. I do what I can, but my resources are limited.’

“It was God who told me to stop panning. He said, ‘I’ll provide.’ That’s what I tell other people as well. There was a woman panning on the street. I told her ‘You don’t have to do this.’ Maybe she had a drug habit to pay for. I don’t know. While I was sitting there a woman dropped fifteen dollars into her cap. After she left the woman panning said, ‘You’re lucky for me.’ I said, ‘It’s not me, but God who will provide.’

“There is a twenty-three year old woman who sleeps in doorways. I brought her back to my place and told her, ‘Look, I’m a fifty-six year old man. I have a daughter older than you. I’m not going to touch you. Don’t worry about that. I have a spare bed, food. You can wash your clothes. I have others that you can put on while you’re waiting for them to dry. I told her ‘You can use this address to have your check delivered and you’ll always have a place to stay.

“She slept there for a few nights, then last night I found her sleeping in a doorway again. I said to her, ‘This is a dangerous place. You’re young, you don’t know how dangerous it is. Some of these people have been on the streets for thirty years. They know how to protect themselves, but if a man grabbed you and hauled you into an alley he’d either do you or he’d stab you — one or the other. I gave her my phone number. She wrote it on her hand. She didn’t come by last night. I’m not going look for her. It’s her choice. Soon the weather will be cold and I may not be around.

“Would you please sign my bible? As you can see I have signatures dating back to 2002. I also have church bulletins. I attended the Biker Church last week. I really enjoyed the service. It was down to earth guys. After the sermon I talked with the pastor. In some of the churches I’ve attended the pastor looked down his nose at me. When I told him about my outreach program he asked about my qualifications, what seminary I studied at. I’ve got a grade five education. I can barely read.

“Sometimes I’ll wake up at three in the morning and I’ll hear someone calling. I know it’s time to go. I’ll make up a dozen sandwiches and go to all the places that I know that homeless people will be staying, beneath the bridges, in alleys, behind dumpsters in back of the coffee shops. By the time I get downtown the sandwiches are gone. I’ll load up with a couple of trays of coffees and I’ll go back the way I came, passing cups out as I go. I receive a monthly pension. I spend about three hundred dollars a month to make the sandwiches and to hand out cards for coffee. It’s all I can do. I can’t help everybody.”


Read about my friends here