I came to a stop at a red light, and I was at least 6 cars back when I saw him. He limped. His limp reminded me of a homeless man who used to come into our church to visit. Which come to think of, I have not seen Barry in a very long time. Barry is in a very addictive lifestyle, a permanent resident of "the street" or wherever he can find a place. This man was not him, but he sure reminded me of my old friend.
I knew what this young man was doing on the boulevard, and I rifled through my purse and found a $5 and then wondered if I would stop at the light by him, or just have to follow the green light through. I watched. One person handed him something. Then another car driver threw some money out the window as they went by on the green light. I realized that I would be able to stop at the light. I wound down my window and put my hand out. He seemed to recognize the gesture as being a positive one. He limped up to me. While it was not real cold out, he had a scarf on and pulled up. But then I saw his eyes. He looked at me and thanked me so much, and wished me a Merry Christmas. That is when I came undone. My eyes welled up with tears, I could hardly wish him a Merry Christmas back. He just looked me in the eyes. It seemed like a long time but it was likely only mere seconds. But he looked. And there was an exchange of thought, without either of us saying a word. It was as if he knew that something was going on with me. And I wept. He turned and limped back to his spot, waiting for another "gift". Believe me, it wasn't the $5 that brought me to tears - it was something about his eyes.
Many blocks away, I was still in tears. Undone. All I could think of was B ~ one of my siblings who I have not seen in almost a year. I can not get hold of him because I either get his voicemail, or no answer at all. It is a long story with a sad twist. A story that began when he was about 5 and totally abandoned by his parents and put into foster care! His baggage includes getting beat up and starved in foster care, not to mention missing all his siblings. At 5 years of age - you remember a lot.
My brothers story is a long story of "stuff" including what he described to me was a "three headed dragon" which he told me in his own words "you have to kill all three or nothing will help." In the world of addictive behaviour, I am likely naive. But I do know that my struggle with overeating is akin to an "addictive behaviour" at times, and eating differently is HARD WORK!! Not eating under stress or emotional stuff is HARD WORK. So I understand a little bit about overcoming addictive behaviours however of course, my "vice" was absolutely acceptable. A quick look around us tells you that.
Seeing this young man today, at the same time that Teen Challenge was doing their radio challenge was really enlightening. Steve P from Teen Challenge said that more people are using marijuana today than ever before. But not only that. Young Adults are using it and saying that is all it will be, it is just a "herb" and one T.C. graduate said that "marijuana is just a gateway drug to worse things ... and you are just fooling yourself if you think it won't lead to anything else." That was when I remembered coming home on my lunch hour and finding my mom in tears, as she had found a bag of weed in B's room which she threw out. Ya, a gateway drug .... gateway to bigger, badder, stronger, and life changer forever.
The three headed dragon has not been killed. I remember the day that I was visiting with him while he was in Addictions Foundation Manitoba. That is when he told me that his addictions are like a "three headed dragon" and For the past few years there have been times when he has worked hard at trying to get clean, admitting to us that he has never made 30 days. And the thing is, it is no longer marijuana but something more, something greater, something more deadly, something that puts him at risk over and over again. Something that has taken his beautiful family, his home, his job, his money, his friends, his self esteem, and instead given him pretty much nothing except a few belongings which include his old KJV BIBLE and a very few belongings. The three headed dragon has forced him to live under a bridge at times, or in the downtown mission (thank the LORD for Siloam Mission) or perhaps scoring a rooming house to live in once in a while.
I saw him last on his birthday. He turned 54. Two years younger than me, and yet years away from me. It is never easy. So much life has passed him by. He loves the Lord, but the pull of the addictions keep him in bondage. And besides that face to face visit, I managed to get ahold of him once in late summer. The last time I talked with him on the phone I told him the same thing "Okay, good-bye - I love you." Normally he would say, "ya, I love you too" before he hung up, but last time we talked I knew that he did not want to talk to me, and he was not in a good way. As I write that, I remember the day that we had to return him to his foster home until he joined our family forever. (That is how the Children's Aid Society worked it - if you were adopting a child you had an overnight visit to see how it would go and then took the child back to the foster home until the papers were drawn for the permanent placement in an adoptive family.) I remember I went to hug him good-bye and he recoiled which totally threw me for a loop, as we were family that hugs (to this day, no matter where, no matter what - a hug and kiss are part of our coming and going).
Not sure where my brother is. But he has a phone (if he has money to put minutes on it) and I know he has my phone number. Somehow over the years, he has never not had my phone number. I have heard from him at all hours of the night, in all stages of despair. I am not sure where he is, but I do know that there are places in the city that love on men and women with no home. I am not sure where he is, but I do know that my heart stops every time I hear of a stabbing, or a beating, or anything like that. You see, the three headed dragon is not a giver of peace, or joy, or love. No, the three headed dragon steals, kills and destroys and as much as I pray for him only HE will be able to help B but only if B is totally willing. God does not force Himself on anyone! In the meantime I will continue to give a hot drink, or food, or a $5 bill to the ones like the man today, whose eyes reduced me to tears.
Lord God - only you can do what is needed in the life of my brother. Only you God. ONLY. GOD.
Break my heart for what breaks yours O God. May the tears that come, accompany prayers on behalf of the least of these, which include my brother.
No one made the choice to just live on the street. Dragons are hard to contain and even harder to slay.
|This was in 1968. Back row is me (Joy) and my mom.|
My brother T is in front of me, and then my brother B
This was taken within a month of when B joined our family through adoption.