This Ain’t No Perfect World

Dear Hope Nation,

I had two experiences today that demonstrate opposite poles in my life philosophy. Let me explain.

I sat down with an old friend I’ll call Larry at lunchtime just to catch up and talk. I first met Larry in a previous life—not literally exactly, but close to it. I was director of a home for formerly homeless veterans and Larry was pre-formerly homeless. More specifically, he was living in a non-mobile RV lacking water, electricity, heat, or hope. What it did have was empty whiskey bottles, each of which had held promise when Larry bought it but transformed into madness when he drank it.

Like a wounded bird, Larry was cautious about anyone and everyone, prepared to flee whenever folks came too close. Through a variety of circumstances, Larry somehow came to trust me and agreed to leave his home of horrors and move into the veterans’ house. Things went well for Larry while he was surrounded by other folks who were staying sober, but once he moved out, he crawled back into the bottle for a while. Over the next few years, Larry had ups and downs but managed to give back to the community—organizing a blues festival to raise money for the house, helping former residents, volunteering at the house.

Two Novembers ago, Larry combined Fentanyl and whiskey, making a cocktail of madness that led to a SWAT team, a brief jail stay and a new man. Larry, working with the VA’s justice department, got out of jail, and got his life in order. After successfully completing Vet Court, working with other veterans and maintaining sobriety, Larry went on to complete Recovery Coach Academy and volunteered at Hope for quite a while. Although Larry and I may have different descriptions of recovery, Larry is a success.

Today, Larry and I talked about life, people we know in common. The conversation meandered and swirled, as it does with old friends, but ended with a difficult question. I asked Larry why he was satisfying himself with living outside life’s mainstream, what it would take to get him back into the game of life and recovery support. Without going into details, Larry was silenced by the question. When I told him he had a lot to offer the world but was keeping his heart to himself, Larry muttered a simple thanks. Before he left, Larry and I had arranged for him to return to providing support to folks in recovery.

Despite lots of setbacks in his life, I believe in Larry. That belief, I think, makes a real difference in his life.

As Larry and I were leaving the Hope building, we found a homeless couple in the vestibule, trying to warm themselves from the cold. I told them they were welcome to stay, and that I’d be back in 10 minutes. Candy and Raymond thanked me, but when I came back only Candy was there. She told me Raymond had run out to do a quick errand and would be right back. I asked her if they’d eaten today. Shyly, even ashamedly, she said they hadn’t. I wanted to demonstrate my belief in her and Raymond’s possibility, so I pulled out thirty dollars and asked her to run over to Subway, bring me back a sandwich and buy a couple sandwiches for the two of them.

In a perfect world, she and Raymond would have returned, the three of us would have had a positive, affirming conversation and that bit of belief would have resulted in a transformation, maybe for all of us. As my friend Tonio K. has told me over the years, this ain’t no perfect world.

I didn’t see the two of them again, nor did I get a sandwich. Still, I want to believe and will continue to believe in the redemptive power of faith in humans. I believe we can make a difference. I believe I should bring my lunch to work in case my faith doesn’t bear fruit. Or chips. Or a roast beef sandwich.

You matter. I matter. We matter.

Keith

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