Getting to know people can be hard.
I feel like I’m dancing or walking a fine line sometimes. Mostly it is when I’m trying to figure out when do I ask a question, and when to keep quiet? I don’t want to seem like I’m prying, but I also want them to know that I care.
My experience has been hurting people will usually withdraw, and only share when they feel they can trust you, and then only just a piece at a time. It is kind of a test to see what you will do with the information that they entrust you with.
Going to Finley Park and feeding the homeless, I’ve found that the more they see us, the more they will share bits and pieces of their stories. Some will get their food and then leave right away, while others will stick around to chat. That is one thing when someone in the group hands out the two cigarettes. They definitely stick around to get them. While they are waiting they will talk with us, they will eat and they will wait until we hand those out, and most times, they will stand and smoke one and talk. It is during those standing around times, that they will share a piece of their story, talk a little more, and even ask for prayer.
I said I would share about the people that I have been meeting, and the next person that I wanted to talk about is “C”. Well, I started this post about him on the 11th, but didn’t publish it.
Why? Probably if I’m being real here is because then it says a little more about me that I haven’t shared.
Getting to know people can be hard. Sharing with strangers people can be hard.
This is a two-way learning experience.
Missed “C” last time we were there. He usually is a fixture, always watches for us. He will usually stay near us when we are serving and talk to us while he leans up against a pole.
I was looking for him one day and asked one of the other fellows for him and he said “you mean the crippled guy”? I wouldn’t have described “C” that way. I mean, yeah, he walks with a limp and has a cane, but since we’ve been going to the park, I’ve seen many of the homeless carrying canes. I realized that while I may not have described “C” that way, I had fallen into the “seeing by not seeing land”. The “I don’t want to ask, because I don’t want to make you uncomfortable” realm. And then there is of course, the “I don’t want to be made uncomfortable” with the topic at hand.
How quickly we get used to seeing things, or we see but yet don’t see? Like, I have seen and not seen the homeless before; and here I was seeing and not seeing something again. I always feel like I’m walking a tightrope in situations like that. Do you ask, or not ask, how can you show you care? My usual mode of operation is let them take the lead if they want to talk about it.
Sometimes conversation just happens.
Today, “C” talked about it to me. We had missed him last week when we were there. So, I mentioned that I had missed him, and he said he was at the VA hospital for a doctor’s visit. He told me he was diagnosed with diabetes and that the doc told him that surgery wouldn’t help his knee, he had RA in it, and surgery wouldn’t fix it. Well, my ears picked up.
Something that I haven’t talked about on this blog before is my health issues. Well, only slightly in passing about migraines, but I have RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis). For those of you unfamiliar with RA it is an autoimmune disease (you can find more about it here). Pretty much it is your body attacking itself primarily in your joints, however may affect tissues and organs of which there is presently no cure.
Why don’t I talk about it?
RA is a weakness I have (I don’t like to be weak). RA I can’t control (I want to control it). I would prefer to ignore it unless I can’t (hello, surgery last year), or symptoms requires me to face it. I know what the prognosis is and I don’t care to think about the possible future scenarios. RA stops your body from doing what your mind says you can and want to do sometimes (hello, control again). RA has you making adjustments to what you can and can’t do, so that all of a sudden you realize “your normal” is not “normal” (hello, weakness again).
Mention you have RA, and usually someone will say “yeah, I have arthritis too.” Well, it really isn’t the same, (unless they have RA) but yet they think it is and they understand. Most of the time I just don’t bring it up.
So, we have something in common. I talked to him about it. I asked him if someone in his family had it. He said no, no one had RA or diabetes. He doesn’t know where he got it. He wonders if it is the result of his time in the service. He was just diagnosed last year. So we talked about his symptoms and what he is experiencing and going through for a little bit. He is having trouble with numbness in his legs, the stiffness, the acheness (is that a proper word? – it sure feels like it) and general overall feeling of heaviness that accompanies RA. Pretty much you feel like you have the flu when it is flaring up that just won’t go away. He is trying to resign himself to wearing a brace on his knee and using the cane for the rest of his life, because the doctor told him he was not a candidate for surgery.
I know, I know, I know…….but ………I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.
I know some of what he is feeling. I know the frustrations.
But, I don’t know.
I can’t imagine having no choice but to walk the streets in the midst of a bad flare, when there isn’t any place to go. I’m glad there are places for him to go to get help, but I can’t help but wonder if they just give the minimum care because he is homeless. I can’t imagine being on the streets in the cold or the heat which bothers the joints. I can’t imagine having to rouse yourself and get out of a shelter because you have to, when your body is screaming NO, I don’t want to. I can’t imagine trying to carry most of your belongings or being forced to hold things, when your hands or fingers won’t cooperate or at any given moment not have the strength. I can’t imagine having to walk mile after mile when your knees scream stop.
When I left today, I told him, “Now I know how to pray for you.” You know what he said to me?
“And, now I know how to pray for you.”
“C” wasn’t there today. I had wanted to ask him about his time in culinary school. He had mentioned which one he had his degree in on our last visit, and I couldn’t remember, so I wanted to get it right before I mentioned it here. However, he wasn’t here today. Maybe he has a visit at the VA hospital? That is where he was the last time we visited the park on a Monday. When one of the “regulars” isn’t there, I find myself wondering and praying for their health and safety. We plan on going back next Monday the 21st, hopefully “C” will be back.
“C” was back today. He had been sick, that is why we hadn’t seen him. He said he had been at the doctors, which usually means the VA hospital for him, to get some medication. He said he didn’t come to see us when he was sick because he didn’t want to get us sick. He said “I wouldn’t come around you guys, if I was sick, I don’t want to get you sick”. It was a great warm day, there seemed to be more people than normal so we didn’t get quite as much time to chat. He had a ready hand to help us unload and load the car, and seemed to be getting around well with his new knee brace. We talked a little about his new “shave” to remove his beard.
Keep “C” in your prayers as he continues to gain his strength and battles any illnesses please, when your immune system doesn’t work right, any illness can be a drain.