Monday, December 19, 2005

A Christmas Visitor

(Written one year ago.)

4:00 am 12/24/04

There was a knock on my front door which startled me awake. My dogs were barking which required dire threats to quieten as I answered the door.

Maybe you have heard of our weather and the unusually cold temperatures (16 F) and large amount of snow that has fallen, (18"), in the last 24 hours. I live just south of Interstate 64 in Southern Indiana and you may have seen the news about the closed Interstate and stranded motorists on the national news.

A man, about my own age, (early 50s), stood at the door. He was wearing tennis shoes, jeans, a field jacket and sock hat. His glasses were frosted and he wore no gloves.

He told me he was lost and asked where St.James Blvd was. I told him it was about a mile and a half to the West and asked him where his car was. He said he was walking.

I asked him in and sat a chair for him by the furnace vent. He was shivering uncontrollably, a faint whiff of alcohol was on his breath. I asked if I could fix him something to eat and he refused but he accepted a cup of coffee.

My wife talked to him as he warmed himself and I made some coffee, I could hear him speak as I made his coffee ready.

My son heard him and came into the living room to sit and listen, to keep an eye out, just in case.

He was homeless, he had been sleeping under a bridge on the Ohio River about seven miles away to the West. He decided that it was too cold and he might freeze to death if he didn't find a safe place to stay.

About midnight he left his meager possessions, a few clothes, and headed for his sisters house on St James, but he had walked past the street in the dark. He was lost and confused, probably somewhat drunk, and hypothermia can add confusion to even the sober mind.

As he talked, I realized that he had mental problems, as do many of the homeless. There are places that take in the indignant, I'm sure he knew it too, but they won't accept anyone who is intoxicated, which I'm also sure he was aware of.

He drank his coffee then asked me if I would drive him to his sisters house and offered me two dollars. Of course I refused the money but offered to take him where he wanted to go, I intended to take measures to see after him anyway. He seemed anxious to leave.

As I drove, he told me that his sister was out of town but he had permission to use her house in an emergency. I was worried that he was just lying to me for reasons of his own but I was determined to see the thing through, even if I had to call the police to ensure his wellbeing through this cold weather.

We drove up to the house and there was a porch light on and smoke coming from the chimney vent, even though it was apparent that there was no one home as the snow was undisturbed. I asked him if he was sure he could get in, he said, "Yes, she told me where the key is." He reached out his hand, as if for a hand shake, and when I offered mine, pulled it to his lips and kissed it saying, "God bless you".

I was profoundly embarrassed but stayed long enough to see him dig around in the snow and find a key, then unlock the door and wave goodbye.

I drove home, my thoughts disturbed, by the events that had taken place.

My wife was relieved as I came in and I started preparing food (very early) for this Christmas Eve. As I cut up fruit for salad and prepared the turkey for baking, my son came up behind me and hugged me, kissing my head, and said, "Dad, you did a good thing."

Again, I was embarrassed, not by my son's hug and kiss but by his praise.

I hadn't did it for praise, I did it because it was the right thing to do.

Then he told me that he tries to help the homeless ones that hang around his place of employment. We spoke of how little we can actually do for them and I was proud of my son for doing the right thing, he is a good man.

As I continued to prepare, my thoughts drifted to a couple seeking shelter in Bethlehem and the birth of the Lamb of the New Covenant, and I felt God's Peace.

May God's Peace be with you all!
Merry Christmas.
(and a Happy Hanukkah)

Warren

22 comments:

Always On Watch said...

Warren,
What you have written here is so beautiful and will stay with me for a long time.

I'm terrible with numbers, but you'll probably recognize the chapter and verse from my paraphrase below:

"Lord, when did we see you cold and hungry and in prison?"

"Inasmuch as you have done so for the least of my brothers, you have done so for me."


We must keep the inns of our hearts open.

God bless you, Warren. Merry Christmas!

drummaster2001 said...

warren:

good story about helping the less fortunate.

i am not Christian, but isn't there a part of Christmas about showing good will towards all men? clearly you have done that without so much as a second thought, and also because it was the right thing to do even without reward (us Jews call this a 'mitzvah').

have a Merry Christmas.

Warren said...

Thank you, Always.
Indeed I recognize the scripture, it is used frequently in the Society of St Vincent dePaul. I, myself, am not one to remember the numbers of chapter and verse. But the message remains clear.

Peace be with you and yours.

DM, my friend, yes in a way Christmas has became the season of peace and goodwill. But ideally we Christians would do well to keep that attitude all year round.
:^)
Shalom

drummaster2001 said...

warren:

"...ideally we Christians would do well to keep that attitude all year round."

wouldn't everyone want to keep that attitude year round?

Warren said...

DM,
"wouldn't everyone want to keep that attitude year round?"

Yes, assuredly.

But the nominally Christian, seem to think the less fortunate are only with us at Christmas.

Tell me, as a Jew are you under the impression that Christmas is the holiest day of the Christian calendar?

Actually its Easter Sunday.

The importance of Christmas, from a religious Christian perspective, has been exaggerated over the years. We do not know the date of the birth of Jesus. Most historical religious scholars place it in the spring. The date of Christmas was set at December 25 to coincide with the winter solstice, which was celebrated in many cultures as a pagan celebration.

While the ideals of peace and goodwill toward men are admirable, in and of themselves, I find it egregious that they should only be practiced at Christmas, particularly by Christians.

All that, be as it may, the time of family and homecomming, is warmly welcome.

Tommorow/today, we celebrate at work with a pizza lunch.

:^)

Jason_Pappas said...

Have a warm Christmas … human warmth, that is. It’s clearly abundant here. And best wishes in the coming year.

Anonymous said...

Unusally cold!....whhaaa ha ha ha haaaaa...
Here we ski all year long...
I rememeber when i was very young my mother heard a noise in kitchen and she turned from her easy chair and looked down the hallway into the kitchen and there was a young man peeking around the refridgerator...shaking she got up and said to my dad, "Duncan there's someone in the kitchen"
My dad rose and walked into the kitchen, grabbed him by the wrists, and my dad was a small man but had the hands and grip of someone twice his size, even when i outgrew him by seven inches and 50 pounds i still couldnt outsqueeze him..lol
"what do you want" he asked.
I just wanted a drink, he replied.
They gave him a drink and he was on his way...but my poor mother!
[elijah]

Anonymous said...

The mental health issue just rang a bell.
An occasional friend after high school became unintelligible and erratic, and unfortunately in the popular vernacular was described as "fucked up", such is the sensibility of the permanently stoned and insensitive.
I was eager to meet up with him and see what the problem was and if I could help him. I did eventually by accident meet up, and kept in touch, unfortunately his condition deteriorated until he was for the most part almost consistently unintelligable and
appeared psychotic at times. Eventually he told me was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. A condition which he could not accept.His life was unimaginable. In and out of government paid rooms, couldnt work. He was barred from every bar on a popular strip in toronto, barred from public transit! even after being diagnosed professionally. Beaten up due to his uncontrollable outbursts, jailed!
Eventually I walked away, frustrated but completely helpless.
The unfortunate thing is they can not hospitilize schizophrenics against ther will.
{elijah}

Anonymous said...

An unusual "experience" for christmas eve.Many people would have told him to get lost, possibly out of fear, which is understandable,but i believe and hope that most would do the same as you did.Well done and Merry Christmas Warren and family
[elijah]

beakerkin said...

Great post Warren

I was by Drum Master earlier and in NYC taking care of my little buddy. My mother forgot he is sensitive to changes in heat. A draft free location and a heatlamp and he is fine.

Elijah great to see you . I miss your blog there is plenty of room for light hearted blogs. Every blog has an identity and a unique niche.

I worked with the inner city people for years before my present job. The sad part is that we forget the mental heath component and cycle of addiction and dependency. The problem of a lack of financial resources is the most obvious but liberals heap scorn on the obvious solutions.

1 Self respect is something I can't give you. Often the cycle of dependency is part of the problem.

2 Have in tact families and kids in wedlock.

3 Treat genuine mental illness seriously. People who are seriously ill need help and medication.

4 A sound set of religious values is better then secular whims.

5 It is your duty to get an education or learn a craft.

Anonymous said...

This was a big part of the problem, my friend would not take his medication, then again his condition was so advanced medication amounted to simply doping him into being a zombie, so he would be no threat to anyone.

Warren said...

Jason, and a heart felt Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Elijah said:
Unusally cold!....whhaaa ha ha ha haaaaa...
Here we ski all year long...


Are you bragging or complaining?
;^)

I know, I know, for you, 16 degree weather and 18" of snow seem like a nice day to go to the beach.

I like to make sand castles, I'm not into ice sculpture. LOL

Guests cause less stress when they are invited in, (except for some family members). :^)

Up to 80% of schizophrenics are treatable with psycotropic drugs. But do to the very nature of the illness, they can become very difficult to treat. I used to work with one that had a wife that kept a close eye on him and made sure he took his medication properly. About once a year he had to be hospitalized while his medications were adjusted.

As you probably know, they hear voices in their minds that tell them all sorts of terrible things. Being curious, I asked him about it. He told me that the voices would tell him that the medicine was poison and that people were trying to kill him. That the voices would start as a whisper and if he didn't use his medication, they would increase in loudness until they were screaming in his head and he couldn't ignore them any more. I asked him if the medicine made the voices go away and he said; no, they only turn them into whispers that he could ignore.

I can only imagine the hell on earth these people must go through.

For the most part, the State can do very little for them unless they represent a danger to themselves or violence against others. Alcohol aggravates the problem and doesn't react well with their medicine.

Merry Christmas and best wishes in this New Year!

Warren said...

Beak, make sure your mother doesn't over do it and cook his little tail off!

If its possible, you shoud put something over part of his cage so he can get out of the heat if he becomes too hot.

Mr. Beamish the Instablepundit said...

Warren,

Have a Merry Christmas!

drummaster2001 said...

warren:

actually, if you didn't answer the question already, i would have said Easter was the holiest day.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, his speach would make your head swim,I tried to psychoanalyze him and pick through it but to no avail.
He called me once and said he had something to do with the toronto blue jays.Eventually he stopped talking during visits. He said to me once after I told him I had to go and he said "what am I going to do now"

Anonymous said...

and you are right, his life must have been hell. I tried to help him, gave him money, called institutions about the condition, but as Beak and you say, they have to take their meds, but he often didnt.What burned me was the courts putting him jail after he had a psychotic episode while on the street, he punched another homeless man.Can you imagine him in jail?
I went once to visit him in the psych ward, which was an adventure itself, and he was frantic and embarrased trying to explain what had happened.
I visited his mother who was completely distraught and frustrated. She as I did turned her back on him...
What should they do? lock them up?
How can you when they do have moments of clarity.

Warren said...

Beamish,
Merry Christmas, cuz!

DM,
I have no doubt that you would answer correctly. You are more knowledgeable than a larger percentage of the people I run into every day.

I would say, that 80% of the nominal Christians and 50% of the practicing Christians, I know, would answer, Christmas. I have even heard Catholic Priests speak of it during a homily/sermon from the pulpet.

The Christmas service is always overfull, with people standing in the back of the church. The Easter service is full, but less full than the Christmas service. There are two services on Christmas eve and one on Easter Sunday.

Warren said...

Elijah,
Its truly heart breaking.

The only thing that kept Damon, (my co-worker), off the street and out of trouble, was his wife. She was totally devoted to him.

I could always tell when he was having trouble. He frowned, the rest of the time he had a smile on his face. He also seemed preoccupied. I suspect he was trying to ignore the voices.

I know another one that talks to himself in two different voices, (when he thinks no one is around).

I believe these people account for the old stories of demon possession.

There is actually something organically wrong with them and from what I hear and know, their condition deteriorates and eventually becomes untreatable if not controlled.

Warren said...

Elijah,
As human beings, we must accept the fact that some things are beyond our ability to fix. I don't know how we can balance a persons needs against their wants. His need to be free outweighs our concern. We cannot, and I would not, lock him away if he wasn't dangerous. Better he suffer in a hell of his own making than a hell we provide for him.

I'm going to do something for your friend, I do it for all my friends, I will pray for him. Its all either of us can do at this point.

Elijah, in case no one has never told you, you are a good man! You went far beyond what anyone could reasonably expect you to do for your friend, and still you did more.

God bless you, my friend.

Anonymous said...

Thank you warren, like you it was a sefless act, i wish i could have done more.
god bless you and your family

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