No shoes

Rounding the corner into Thursdays meeting at Burger King I was happy to see Brent sitting at the counter and I looked over at our table…Jake finally popped back up. That was nice to see. He had disappeared a few days. Sometimes I think Jake just likes to remind us that he is a grown man and he doesn’t need to check in. Then he forgets that he is grown and he will call or text on his government phone several times in one day. 

Mike walked in the room behind me and I stopped to pay attention to this new fella that was quietly talking to Brent. Call it eavesdropping but often I have to pay attention in order to know what is going on. That sometimes requires me to listen.

I probably wouldn’t have even slowed down but the man seemed troubled. I looked at his dirty shirt that seemed tucked in; maybe moments earlier behind the dumpster out back. His body was dirty as well as the jeans that delicately balanced on his tiny waist with no belt. One wrong move and the jeans would have slid down. They were too big or he was too thin…odds are? He was way too thin.

 I as always move close to any homeless stranger in order to gain their total attention which I did with my new friend seconds after meeting him. My words…”Hey man, what is it you need?” He turned towards me and smiled which at that point I could smell alcohol. Not that I care, but it is part of how I read someone. Tells me a lot…{he drinks alcohol}! Ok it is 9 am, he is dirty, he smells like alcohol and I look down at his feet and my heart dropped!

He answered my question explaining that he was hungry and wondered if someone could buy him a sandwich. I then said…”Man, where are your shoes?” His face began to look sad when he explained, he did not know… The knuckles on a few of his toes were raw and bleeding. He obviously hit them on the cement in his walk to Burger King that morning. Rats!!! I thought inside of myself. I have no shoes in my truck. I have no shoes period.

I asked him to sit down at a table in another corner of the room so that no one could see him. He was a little nervous because there were a few police officers in the main dining area eating breakfast. He didn’t want to go out to where they were. Like a little school boy he went and sat down right where I told him. I sat down my things at the table where our meeting was being held and went to order my friend breakfast.

OH, not just a sandwich… He ate eggs, pancakes, biscuit, grits and sausage. When I took him his food I told him that he was not to get up until it was all gone. He I suppose thought I was serious because he answered with a “yes ma me !”

I then looked over at Mike and asked him if he would like anything to eat. Michael explains that he had just eaten and wasn’t hungry. I was a little surprised and asked where he ate. He said he got lucky that morning. He found a dumpster that had food still wrapped and nothing had crawled on it. I thought again inside myself that he is one of a kind. Mike is the dumpster food King! He shows all the men on the streets how to get out good food from a dumpster. Many times I will be sitting in a restaurant and I catch Michael sneaking into the dumpster. You have to eat…

This morning while I waited for Missy to pick me up downtown I sat on a curb because the sun was already hot and the benches were sitting in direct sun light. Looking down the sidewalk as I bent down to sit Clifford was coming my way. I hadn’t spoken to Clifford in a few weeks. Partly because I hadn’t run into him and mostly because I still was a bit put out from how he behaved the last time we talked. (That is a whole other story)

Deciding in a few seconds to let him off the hook as he sat down next to me I asked him what he was up to. He asked me, why I was sitting on the curb like a man??? ONLY Clifford would come up with that. He then asked me why I was over at the mission the other day? I explained I stopped in to see a friend that went there on Tuesday. Fair is fair I reasoned in myself after I answered his question and I asked him why he was across the street from the mission at a “crack house?” I never actually called Clifford out on being a crack addict before but today I had it in me to lay my cards out.

He just about slid off the 4 inch curb… At first he didn’t deny it but then he asked me how I knew it was a crack house. I told him that nothing moves on the streets I don’t know about…… Like predictability he told me it wasn’t a crack house but the other “shot-gun” houses were. I never let up, I kept telling him I knew just about every crack house in the downtown area and that nothing moves on the streets I don’t know. He became flustered and nervous. I told him that if I ever saw him over at that house again I was going to get a switch and rip his tail up!

Clifford is older than me…he is 60 something and a complete neat freak. He could pass as a black pimp he’s so meticulously dressed. However… extremely lost. I felt awkward coming down on him so hard but I had an opening with Clifford and I took it. He won’t keep my information to himself which is what I expect and now the men in Clifford’s circle know momma Jaye figured out which crack house they are in and I am watching.

I stay busy…I love every second of it.

Eric, was down a few days this week as they would say it here in the south… His head was pounding and he lost 5 pounds in 2 days. He is showing more and more signs that he is in full-blown AIDES! We treasure every single day. I am given a chance that not many get. Because of my friends that have no front door I have learned to hold onto and caress every second of every day. It has value and contains tremendous strength…for the good, as well as for the bad!

My man from Burger King watched me as he ate like a scared puppy. Putting food into his mouth his eyes never turned from my direction… I pretended I didn’t notice. When he finished he thanked me again and  I told him that he was more than welcome before he walked out the door.  I prayed he would find shoes.

What great plans do you have for Memorial Day, Eric asked Missy and I today. We have no money to go on a trip  and even if I did I am not sure I would tell Eric the truth. I do plan to cook hot dogs on the grill and I couldn’t even tell him that because I know where he will be…. Sitting in his wheelchair at the nursing home.

I will go see him and I will take him a hot dog but you know what friends…life!!!! how we made it, how it turned out… sometimes it is tough.  

………I wonder if my friend found any shoes……..


4 Responses to “No shoes”

  1. Shoes. Needing something as basic as shoes. There’s nothing else to say, really.

  2. This is so sad. In your and Missy’s kind of work have y’all thought to hook up with VRM and let them provide the shoes, clothes, etc…? If you ever need me to go pick up something like that for them just let me know.

  3. Reading your testimonies so empowers and helps me in my own ministry.

  4. I have wondered many nights about Eric…His story touched me in a way I’ve never had before. Pleased keep us posted on him. I feel like I know him. Do you have a donation point for clothing or other needs these souls need?

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