Alone and Helpless

People sometimes wonder why I am so passionate about people who are experiencing homelessness.  I have to admit I don’t always fully understand my compulsion to be big hearted and compassionate.  All I know is that I cannot not respond to people who are struggling, and I have never met a person experiencing homelessness who I have not instantly felt an enormous amount of love for. 

This love explains a lot of my passion, but I also have a special understanding of the predicament that people experiencing homelessness face.  

I saw it the other day, a man, standing on the corner, lost, alone, troubled, frustrated, pounding his cane on the sidewalk and yelling at the top of his lungs at no one in particular.  He had no power to fix his mental illness, change his current state of homelessness, or even reach out to anyone for help. To those like me passing by, he appeared dangerous, and no one came to his aid.

His state took me back just a few weeks ago.  I arrived home and dinner was ready on the stove.  I received a call from a news reporter that a grandmother and grandson were living in a tent in Burbank and in need of assistance. I went to race out the door, and my wife said, “Eat your dinner!”  I said, “I don’t have time, I have to go!” and headed out the door without eating. 

I arrived at the library, connected with this sweet grandma, and encouraged the strong young man, who was a football phenom in high school and hoping to get into a local college football program.  We waited a bit for the URM van to arrive, and then loaded them up to head to our Project Restart program on the 5th floor of Union Rescue Mission. 

I felt encouraged that we were able to help, and headed to my car for the ride home and dinner.  I am a diabetic, and I felt my blood sugar go low, and became shaky.  I turned off my insulin pump, sat down in my car, recognized that I was too shaky to drive, found some Fritos and ate them, sat for a minute, then realized it wasn’t enough.  I was in trouble.  I started to have muscle seizures.  It took me a bit, but I got out of my car and headed for the front door of the library for help.  But I didn’t make it. I collapsed onto the ground in the dark parking lot, skinned up my hands and worse yet, broke my cell phone.  I thought, “I am finished.”  I somehow put my phone back together, after a struggle, dialed my wife amidst the convulsions, and spoke in a sporadic broken way to her that I needed help.  She somehow figured out that I was at a library in Burbank, but there are 3!

A few people drove by, saw me convulsing, but did not stop. Out of nowhere, a good Samaritan, maybe a guardian angel, came up to me and asked if I needed help.  I told him I was a diabetic, and he brought me a Krispy Krème donut.  Someone else held me while I struggled and poured orange juice down my throat.   They saved my life!  I don’t remember the call, but I guess my son called me some time during this struggle, and I told him which library that I was at.  A fire truck and ambulance arrived, picked me up, treated me with a jolt of glucose, got my sugar level up to a dangerously low level, and took me to a hospital.  My wife met me at the hospital, and boy was I in trouble for missing dinner!  I now have a picnic basket in the back seat loaded with enough snacks to feed everyone on Skid Row!

When we encounter people who are alone, helpless and struggling, we can respond one of two ways.  The first is to ask “what will happen to me if I get involved?”  The second is to ask “what will happen to them if I don’t get involved?”

I am so thankful for people who ask the second question and take the time to reach out and rescue others.  Thank you, for being one of those who rescue! 

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