Sunday, August 5, 2012
On Not Walking By
I awoke at 3:45 am this morning, threw on my clothes, and drove down the street to get him. And as he had said several times over the last few days, he just wasn't ready. He's a neighbor, one who stopped me one morning on my walk, and asked if I could help him. That was months ago. My neighbor has all manner of personal challenges. There are the physical issues, a neurological disorder and some teeth that need fixing. But mostly, his issues are anger at life, an anger that isolation has turned on itself, seething and festering into a deep rolling paranoid boil.
He sees a world that conspires against him, watches him, and is out to get him. That means everyone, from the next-door neighbor to the county supervisor to the governor to Homeland Security. I have gently redirected those conversations to the best of my ability, listening, and then turning us to other things.
The truth, which I have not told him, is harder. The world does not care. The world does not notice.
On many days, his anger made my trip down to talk with him something that required effort. After the Aurora shootings, he became particularly agitated, and being around him was not easy. But sometimes, we must do what we know we must do, even and particularly if we really would rather just keep on walking.
And so I've been there with him.
What he's needed these last few weeks is help preparing for a trip to his native country, where free medical care awaits. I've helped him get his flight, and worked with him finding places to stay.
The Good Lord providentially arranged it so that I had no sermon to prepare or preach today, as the youth of the church are handling the service. That meant that yesterday I was free to be working with him on last minute preparations, and this morning I was free to be his cab, and during worship I'm free to not fear falling asleep on my feet in the pulpit, or drifting into sleep deprived glossolalia.
I'd gotten there on time, but he wasn't dressed, and had sort of packed. But he was awake, and it only took a jar of coffee, a cigarette, and around forty minutes before he was ready to hop in the van for the ride to the airport. He seemed calmer, for all of the rush.
On the way there we talked, about where he would stay, but also about life. Being men, we talked cars, and the indestructability of mid-1980s Subarus. I discovered he and I felt the same way about Ronald Reagan, and when I shared a favorite joke, he laughed. When the anger is gone, there's a brightness to him, a flicker of droll joie de vivre.
I saw him off with hope and trepidation, a gangly figure waving farewell with a cane in one hand and a huge rolling bag in the other.