I’m dying. Not immediately nor anytime real soon, but sooner than I’d like. I’ve got bad lungs. Severe COPD. Just walking around is getting harder and harder. Haven’t worked in about 2 years, since I had to bail from the Shep’s homeless shelter where I worked as Front Line staff. Now that’s irony, Alanis.
You wouldn’t know it to look at me that I’m seriously unwell. After those first few cups of coffee in the morning my cheeks turn rosy and there’s a sparkle in the eye. Or so I’m told. In any case, you won’t notice the grim reaper lurking in my shadow.
My disability is invisible and, though I haven’t the stats to back this up, I’d wager that the majority of seemingly able-bodied homeless have hidden disabilities as well. Just taking inventory from the relatively small band I’ve met in the past 3 months we’ve got PTSD, ADHD, COPD, illiteracy, severe domestic and child abuse, depression, severe anxiety, chronic pain, bipolar disorder, visual impairments, auditory impairments, schizophrenia, aquired brain injury, and a whack of addictions, most of which started in childhood.
Yet there he is, the suburban Yahoo, cruising in his muscle car smoking dope and blaring music from a ghetto he’s never been anywhere near. He slows down by the front entrance of the mission where a group of brothers are smoking on the sidewalk. He tosses a roach out the window and yells, “Get a job you fuckin’ parasites!”
Who was he yelling at? The guy who got shelled in Bosnia and hasn’t been the same since? The schizophrenic with three suicide attempts and a tenuous connection to reality shored up by anti-psychotics? Or maybe it’s the young guy whose father beat the crap out of him twice a week for years and whose mother got him hooked on heroin at 13?
Everyone has a story and there ain’t many on the streets by choice.
I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least among you, you did not do for me.'”