Staff Sargent Gordon McConnell (retired) woke up in the veteran’s hospital the next day. He was a bit disoriented and did not remember much about the day before, only that he had been yelling. There was an IV in his arm, along with a lot of doctors and nurses, running around.
They asked him a lot of questions. Was he taking his diabetes medication? He couldn’t remember. Had he been diagnosed with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) in the past? He honestly couldn’t remember much of anything, but he did remember taking pills every day, that is until……until his wife…died. Everything went downhill after that.
The Army sent psychologists to his room to ask him questions but he wouldn’t say much. He didn’t trust them. He never did trust officers, they seemed to know more about paperwork, than about war, at least that was his experience. Besides he knew he had a memory problem, and he didn’t want to trust anyone except the nurses, because they gave him the medication he needed and they were nice to him.
He had a visitor everyday as well. A nice guy – he wore a suit all the time, and a fancy one at that. What was his name? Was it…..? Yes, it was John. He trusted John. He told John everything, day after day, at least what he could remember.
He told John that he did have an apartment once, and told him about where it was. One day he had gotten lost and days later, when he thought he had found it, his key did not work. So he had been on the streets ever since. “Was that after your wife died?” Gordon couldn’t hold back the tears when John asked him that, but he shook his head. “Was her name….Beverly?” John asked softly. Gordon shook his head yes again, and wept with his face in his hands.
John Stancill worked quickly to find Gordon’s apartment, and to see what had happened to it. The woman at the rental office wasn’t too friendly, and seemed to enjoy telling him, that Gordon McConnell was in the process of being evicted. The rent was two months past due. He held back his anger, but he did ask, if she knew that Mrs. McConnell had died recently. “Well…no…I’m sorry”. She changed her tune even further when John got out his check book, and took care of everything.
John and Gordon became good friends. The Army wouldn’t release Gordon to go home by himself, so John promised to pay for in home nursing care six days a week. John himself would be there on Sundays. At first the Army said no, but then John showed them his investment portfolio. Even John was surprised at how much he was worth now. This got him thinking that maybe, just maybe, he could try a different type of work, and do something he always wanted to do.
He visited Gordon almost every night, and brought pizza, Gordon’s favorite. Gordon became like a father to him, and gave him great advice, including about women.
One night John came visiting without his suit and tie on, instead he wore a sweater and blue jeans! He told Gordon he had left his rat race job that made him work around the clock. He had enrolled in a cooking school, and loved it. He loved the fast pace of it, and more importantly the aspect of being creative. He felt alive again!
He had time now for reading books, going for long walks, and yes even dating. He met a girl at school he really liked. Her name was Susan, and she had a great personality. She was always making jokes, which forced him to not take his self so seriously (a problem he knew he had). She was sensitive though too, and well…um….there was also her appearance! Gosh.
Gordon didn’t know if John would marry Susan or not, but he was hoping he would live long enough to see it if they did get married, and that there would be enough of his own mind left, so he could remember it all.
Please remember the homeless this holiday season. Just one life can make an incredible difference, and we all have value! Peace!
He hated the homeless. Why should he feel guilty about wearing a suit, and having a good job in the financial market? After all he worked hard for his money. Even when he wasn’t working he was working, at home on the computer, or on the phone. He was always trying to find out which way the market was leaning.
Yet every day there they were, with their signs, saying “Need Food, God bless”. Each one seemed to have a particular corner, like a salesman with a territory. He wondered if they ever fought over which corner to be on.
He noticed one of them in particular, on the corner of Independence and Main Street. He was an old man, and had to be at least 70 years old. What was he doing out here? He was much too old to be out in this weather. He always needed a shave and a bath, and wasn’t there some kind of government program to help the man? Even with these thoughts though, he never gave a dime. He rushed past the old man every day in a hurry, to get to his office around the corner.
On the day after Christmas though he thought he would do the kind thing, and talk to the man. He slowed down his walking pace, and stopped. The old man seemed to be in a daze, and didn’t notice him. He had a walking cane, and instead of holding his sign up, it hung by his side. “Hellooo!” he said sarcastically. The old man looked up slowly, and squarely into eyes.
He found out the man’s name was Gordon. When he asked the old man about his Christmas (which was stupid, and he regretted saying it) the old man said, “Christmas? What Christmas?” Did he know what day it was? This was worse than he thought, and he realized this man needed help! For the first time in his life he was able to pry his wallet from his back pocket, and gave the old man a ten dollar bill. The old man thanked him, but was mumbling something as he walked away. Did he hear him say something about the Viet Cong?
Over the next few days the old man’s mumbling and acting confused got worse. At one point he was yelling the name Beverly. “Beverly!”, with streams of tears rolling down his face, “Beverly!” What should he do for the old man? Should he call someone? Who? The police? That didn’t seem right. The old man dropped to his knees, and sobbed.
He was already late for an appointment, so walked he further down, near the door to his office, but he could not do it. He just didn’t care about the office right now. He turned to watch the man from a distance, still weeping, and calling the name Beverly.
Suddenly the old man stood up with terror in his eyes, leaning over his walking cane, and started yelling, “Enemy fire!” “Enemy fire, get down everyone!” “Help us God!” “Get down!” He was yelling at the top of his lungs now, “Enemy fiiiiire!”
He could stand it no longer and reached for his phone. He dialed 911 with tears in his own eyes.
The conclusion to the Old Man on the Corner next time!
Mrs. Jeannette Thompson also went to the local police station to see if it were true that the police were looking for Bobby. “Ma’am – I told you twice already there is nothing on file for a Bobby Hendricks.” The Desk Sargent was a disagreeable man and he was becoming more agitated. “Not even as a missing person?”, she asked. “No ma’am – there – is – no – thing – in – our – data – base.” He said it slow on purpose, with a sarcastic tone. She decided to come back another day and talk to a different Desk Sargent, someone who would treat her like a human being.
The next day the information was the same. In the eyes of the police, Bobby Hendricks did not exist. That was good in a way, but why was he not listed as a missing person? Was it a computer problem? Was someone not doing their job? Did his Aunt and her husband report him as missing? She had no idea. One thing she knew for sure though, was that this was big, and she needed to pray about it. What was she supposed to do now?
She normally prayed at home, but this time she went to the church instead. She felt she needed extra help. Something was weighing on her, there was something she was supposed to do, but she was not sure what it was. As she walked in the front door of the church, she stopped at the picture on the wall of Mother Mary holding the Christ Child. It was becoming clearer now. She needed to be more of a mother to Bobby. She hurried to a pew and knelt down.
As she prayed she realized she had been holding back. She was trying to be his friend, but was she loving him? Or was she just trying to ease her conscience by being nice, and giving him food? Where was her commitment? And why on God’s green earth did she not get him off the streets? The answer struck her squarely in the head, and went down into her heart. Fear. It was all because of fear. If she loved him the way a Mom would, he might break her heart by stealing from her, or dying out on the streets. She was afraid, and she began weeping. She did not want to be this way, and realized she must ask him to stay at her house. She needed to open her house and her heart. It took courage, but she decided that she would ask him today.
She went through the neighborhood looking for him, and saw him coming out of the library. She asked him if he would like to come to her house, and would he like to stay there? His face lit up, he smiled, and said, “Sure!”. Later, in her living room, her with a cup of tea, and him with a bottle of soda, she asked him about the library.
He told he loved going there and reading. He went there all the time, though now nobody moved away from him, when he sat down. There was no more bad smell! His favorite subject was history. He loved history with a passion, and right now he was studying how the poverty of 18th century France had caused the French Revolution. Mrs. Thompson choked on her tea, and lost some of it to her living room rug. She had no idea he was this intelligent!
His other passion was studying Native Americans. He loved everything about them, but especially how they were so connected to the earth and nature. As he was sharing about their culture, she saw how he loved adventure, and smiled, thinking, “He probably knows about every tribe in North America”.
Jeannette Thompson became a mighty warrior in the battle against poverty. She opened her home not only to Bobby but a number of children over the years. Right after Bobby started living with her, she also took in a single mother that was seventeen, and had a three year old daughter. She had also recently defeated an addiction to cocaine. She needed a warm and safe place to live. Mrs. Thompson was like a mother to all of them.
She also inspired the church to take action. The church began opening its doors to the community, and especially during the winter, when people needed to get out of the cold at night. It was warm and safe.
The kitchen was expanded, and modernized. Men and women of the church formed what they called “Team Hope”, and served a good hot meal every day. The people of the church were not perfect, but over time they learned how to not judge people, to have compassion, and love people instead.
As for Bobby, he is trying to decide what college he will go to, and should he be a professor of history, or an anthropologist studying early Native Americans, or maybe….both?
The proudest moment of his life was yet to come, and was when he stood on stage graduating from St. Timothy’s Catholic High School. He saw his Mom (Jeannette Thompson) with hands raised high, looking at heaven and thanking God for this wonderful miracle. Both of their spirits soared high that day.
Microfiction in the spirit of the Christmas Season
He jumped. He looked up with terror in his eyes. Should he run? Would she call the police? “Do you have something I could eat?” He couldn’t believe it came out of his mouth, but too late, it did.
A few minutes later they were in the church office, where she told him to make himself at home, and that she would be down in the kitchen looking for some food. In the refrigerator, she found some lunchmeat, and cheese on a platter, and in the cupboard she found crackers that had been saved for the bishop’s upcoming visit. She took them anyway. She thought out loud, “…and some tea would be nice…” “Do boys drink tea?” She went for a cold soda instead.
When she brought back the platter of food, and the soda, he was stunned. It was crackers and cheese – American cheese, along with some turkey. His prayer had been answered and then some. Tears welled up in his eyes, but he said nothing.
They talked for a while about everything, while he ate. Sometimes he talked with his mouth full of food. He was too hungry to worry about manners, besides if she had called the police, he would have to leave in a hurry. It was his turn to take a chance, and he let her know that the police were after him, for stealing.
She did not flinch, but said, “What did you steal?”, “Food, just food” he said, and that was the truth. They talked more about his family, foster parents, how long had he been on the streets? She was shocked when he told her three years, off and on. Sometimes he was caught and sent to social services. He hated living with foster parents, so he would just run away again.
“What about the shelters?”, she asked. “Too dangerous – people get raped and stabbed, and everything else there.” Again she was shocked. He told her he would have to lie to get in, and say that he was the son of one of the men, otherwise the police were called. He usually only stayed for a few days, got some food, a hot shower, and he was on his way again.
After he was done eating (the platter of lunchmeat and cheese was gone!) he wanted to leave. She asked him one thing before he left. “If I gave you all the food you wanted, would you stop stealing?” He thought about that for a moment, but said, “Yes”.
They met every day at the church, where he ate and they both talked. He told her where he had stolen food from. There were two convenience stores, and the local organic market (the food was much better there). There was also the fancy Italian restaurant on Culver Avenue, where they gave him food at the back door, all because he threatened to cause a scene at the front door and tell customers waiting that he got food poisoning by eating there.
The more they talked the more they became friends. His name was Bobby Hendricks. She not only brought food everyday (with plenty of leftovers) but fresh clothing. At the church he was able to wash up at the sink, and he started feeling human again.
Bobby did not know it, but over a two week period Mrs. Thompson went to the each of the places that Bobby had stolen food from. Many of the thefts they did not know about, but she made a list of estimated costs, and the amounts from what Bobby had described. The bill for the organic grocery store alone was $387.00. At each place she handed the store manager a list, and a check for the items taken. The people were shocked, and some wouldn’t take her money, until she insisted.
The last chapter of this series will be next time. Peace to you!
Microfiction in the spirit of the Christmas Season.
He slipped quietly into the old church at the corner of 4th and Main Street. It was his Christmas tradition, and he was looking forward to it, but he was hoping that no one else would be there. It was warm inside, just the way he remembered. Good he thought, he was alone as he walked down the aisle and into a pew about middle way down. The lights were dim and he felt safe.
He was 12 now, and for the past three years, this was his once a year prayer time. Normally he did not pray, other than an occasional “help” or “I’m hungry”. This year he didn’t have any foster parents, but last year he had to run away in order to be here. He couldn’t stand those people anyway. It was a couple of hours until the big Christmas Eve service, but he didn’t waste any time getting down to the praying.
He knelt, and started with Aunt Margaret. She worked so hard, two jobs in fact, just to live at the apartment with her new husband who was a drunk. He couldn’t take the beatings anymore, so he promised himself he would never go back there. He prayed hard, he did, for Aunt Margaret that God would help her, and that if she needed to leave there too, that He would give her the strength. He asked God to help her to quit smoking, (he hated the smell) and that one day they would not only see each other, but maybe…..well if it was ok…..maybe they could live together. “And please God, give us a place where there are no bugs trying to eat our food”.
It was difficult to pray for his Mom. He hadn’t seen her for years and it was hard to remember now, what she looked like. The only thing he could pray for her, was that God would help her to get off drugs. He unexpectedly cried over this. He had thought before that he was done crying over it, but no – the tears came again. He was praying softly, out loud now. “…..God please help her….”
He prayed for his father, even though he didn’t know who he was. He knew he was out there somewhere, and he thought he should care enough to pray. He was hoping that he was a good man, and not in prison somewhere.
He couldn’t pray for the many foster parents he had had, he just couldn’t. It wasn’t in him to pray for those people. Still kneeling, he was silent. He felt something though, inside like a warmth, and he said, “…ok….I’ll pray for them too”, even if it was grudgingly, he let it fly.
Lastly he prayed for himself. He was asking God for a new coat…. “and could I have some… cheese and crackers?” “I like American cheese the best, but any cheese is good…” Since he was praying softly out loud, he did not hear Mrs. Jeanette Thompson come quietly in a side door, carrying another poinsettia plant to place near the front of the church.
She didn’t notice him at first but she heard a whispering sound, and turned to see who it was. She saw him praying and realized she had seen him before, running around the neighborhood. She smelled him now too, even though he was a good fifty feet away. She put the plant down, and decided to take a chance.
She walked softly, trying not to scare him, and tears began streaming down her face. Maybe it was the fact that she was a widow now, or maybe it was the fact that her only son was out in California caring for nothing other than making a lot of money, or maybe it was because she just loved children, she did not know what it was, but she cared for this boy.
With his eyes closed, he still did not notice her. She stood next to him, bent down, and whispered, “Can I help you?”
Part II of The Child Nobody Wanted, tomorrow. Peace!