Yesterday morning I wrote about my plans for the day. I really shouldn’t do that. I need to report in retrospect, not in prospect. My plans never come to fruition! Jim did visit several people, but just not with me. One of our other members came to help make contacts and they spent the day doing just that. When I think of my days, I think of a blue marlin swimming out in the ocean. Surrounded by the beauty of the open waters, he is sparkling in the sun as he propels himself magnificently into the atmosphere. For a moment he enjoys the spectacle of the atmosphere above before plunging into the depths he calls home. Ok, I really do not think of my days that way. I’m more of a catfish, cruising along the bottom distracted by all of the things I may be able to feed on as I make my way through the muddy water. And then, there’s something new that catches my eye. It smells good, so I bite. So I spend the rest of my day pulling against the hook all the while being dragged here and yonder until the end. What is it with me and these fish analogies today? I think my point is that each day has a life of its own. I’m not a very regimented person, so I’m never quite sure which distraction will “catch” me for the day.
Yesterday Terry came to see me. He is like so many people I have met since the storm. Obviously intoxicated, he stood at my office door and just looked at me. I asked him what I could do for him. A flood of tears fell from his eyes as he said, “I do not know what to do now, and I just give up.” Not long ago another person stood in that very spot and said those very words. I’m beginning to think of my office door as the entrance way to the city of last chances. I invited him in and he began to apologize. I handed him a box of tissue and as he wiped his face I could see the lines that his hard life had etched in his face. I’ll choose not to share the language he used, it’s just the way he talks. He related a few details of his life. He has no family to call. No where to go. His $7.50 an hour job (which is not 40 hours a week) will not allow him to pay the rent that is charged these days in Pascagoula. So he lives with a woman in a FEMA camper. His pride is damaged as this woman drinks heavily and beats him. He has a broken nose and a scar on his head. At least this is his explanation for his injuries. I ask if they are involved in drugs. He lies to me about it. As he weeps I tell him I have no answers for him. I could tell him to stop drinking beer and smoking (the only vices he will admit). But he could save only a modest amount of money with this strategy and would still be faced with the severity of his problems. Don’t get me wrong, I think abandoning those habits would give him clarity and healthier living, but he would just happen to be a homeless person who doesn’t smoke or drink.
Terry told me that he lived for three years behind a Winn Dixie. The camper he’s living in isn’t much better, considering the beating he is subject to from time to time. But pride is not gone. He will not hit a woman – even the one that hits him. He will not stop drinking beer. He will not quit smoking. None of these, he asserts, is his problem. I suggested he seek shelter at the Salvation Army. He rejected that because he does not want anyone to tell what to do. I invited him to my Addictions class starting next week and he asserted he was not addicted. I offered him a Bible, but he says he has read the Bible more times than most people.
So, my hands are tied in dealing with Terry. My heart breaks with him, but I can’t do anything to help him. He knows this. He just wanted to speak his problems to someone else. And the only person he could think of was me. He alternated between calling me ‘pastor’, ‘pastor john’, and ‘father’. He needed to lean on someone. He remembers a sign we had in our church yard after the storm. It made an impression on him. He said, “The sign said ‘come as you are’ and I knew that this was a church that didn’t give a damn how you look. I don’t own a suit, but I can still come to church.” I told him he was right. I told him I never wear a coat and tie on Sundays. I invited him to come next Sunday. He just might. He probably won’t. But if he does, I will sit with him.
On the way out he requested that I pray with him. I was prepared to do that on the spot, but he did not hesitate on his way out. Except for the moment he turned around and put his arms around me and gave me a big hug. He said he felt better. I told him to come back anytime. I checked to make sure he hadn’t gotten my wallet. Hey, you gotta be real.
I haven’t thought about that banner that was outside our building in a long time. Maybe we need to set it out again. ‘Come As You Are.’ It made an impression on a homeless addict who really needs to know the love of Jesus. Jesus loves homeless people. Jesus loves addicts. He loves men who have been beaten and crushed by life. I hope Terry knows this.
Check out the photos on Dee Andrews’ blog. They were submitted to her photo contest.
Thanks for reading!