Last night I called over a homeless guy with his shopping cart to have a chat. He’d been conversing with an invisible someone already so I didn’t feel I was imposing. Started off by getting him a black coffee with five sugars and two slices of pepperoni pizza. It was Celebrate Recovery night at my church where everyone carried in hurts, habits and hangups which–at some point in their lives or now–ruined the positive life trajectory they’d once lost and now sought to reclaim.
Christopher uses weed and meth when available but had a more personal reason why he decided not to partake in our recovery service beyond the offer of coffee and pizza. “It’s not the walking in that’s the problem, it’s the walking out,” Chris shared, “When it’s all over, I’m alone again.” He acknowledged he’s dirty inside and out and despite our Come As You Are motto, he was already predisposed to be rejected based on his complicated and very long history on the streets.
Having a place to return to and someone real to talk with, albeit a dog, helped me to understand his dilemma. While he genuinely wanted to join all of us broken people inside and make connections, in his world, it wasn’t worth the pain of the besetting loneliness once the lights are out and the locks are set for the night. Pushing his cart someplace out of the wind and rain was the only familiar ritual to which he’d been accustomed for many years.
I thought about him when I got home and again when I woke up this morning. Though I’d given him hints and helps about available community resources and I’d shared my own history of addiction, I still felt I had missed making the connection that might bring him out of his loneliness and into a better life. Sharing my experience, faith and recovery was necessary, but not sufficient.
I asked him to return same time next Wednesday so we might continue. He said he would and pushed his cart up the road and out of sight, but not out of mind, neither his nor my own.
(to be continued)