Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Chain Of Life

For openers, we finally got the dryer fixed.

Hang on to that thought.

"Does anyone know where the love of God goes, when the waves turn the minutes to hours?"

------ Gordon Lightfoot, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald"

In my humble opinion, "Desperation" has never been described in any more horrifying eloquence than that. Yet, there are similar desperate situations all over. Some take place where nobody can see them. Some are played out in the most public of venues. Some take place at sea or in the air. Other desperate situations take place right in front of our eyes here on dry land.

Take this poor soul for example.

The cold of the harsh Winter had been tearing at his feet for a while, but this night was going to be worse. Unbeknownst to him, temperatures were forecast to plunge overnight with the probability of snow. Those conditions would be tough for a healthy soul to survive under the best of circumstances. This night, weather that can, and does kill, was moving into the region.

Everything was stacked up against him at that moment. He had no shelter, no food, no physical reserves from which to draw on. Once upon a time he did. He had a warm home with a loving family. He was well kept. There was nourishing food. A comfortable place to sleep. There was love. There was safety and comfort. Not any more. His circumstances had placed him on the street. From his perspective it was likely to remain unchanged for some time. Maybe for the rest of his life.

What had he done to deserve this fate? Why was he here? Those questions would go unanswered. Besides, there wasn't much time to dwell on them. It was near dusk. The day had already been cold and it was getting worse. The biting cold was tearing through to his bones. It didn't have much trouble doing so. How could it? His once healthy body had been reduced to that of a skeleton. Pain and fear in the moment had replaced the safety and comfort of having a home. He could solve none of those problems at the moment. He needed food, and needed it right away.

Hundreds of motorists had passed him by along the side of the busy highway. It seemed as if he were invisible in plain sight. It's all too common a tale. People turn a blind eye to the misery of others all the time. It's a defense mechanism, but that doesn't mean it's right. At some point, he had to be wondering "Can't anobody see me?". Dusk faded into the dark of night. The passing cars and trucks scared him. Their noise was exacerbated by the torture of his freezing body. I'm sure his mind was racing. Whose wouldn't be? Given his physical condition, his heart could give out at any moment.

He came to a sudden stop. What's that up ahead? A bag. A white fast food bag. Like almost every other living being out in the world, he'd eaten from one of them more than once. Maybe someone had left a few scraps of food in it! He raced up to the bag. In a way only the truly starving can, he tore through it and it's contents.

His joy turned quickly to despair. Nothing. Nothing but wrappers. One had a meager amount of ketchup left from where the diner had dipped his french fries. Seeing as how that was the only food available, he slowly, and disappointedly, licked it.

Life is funny sometimes. There are moments when the good Lord gives us the gift of "clarity". I call it a gift because that's what it's always been to me when it's come my way. Most of the time it has been a call to action. Such was the case of a man driving home from his job as an appliance repairman. A couple of weeks before he had seen the poor soul by the side of the highway. Billy noticed him because he seemed so out of place. However, he was on his way home at that moment. Traffic was busy. Pretty soon he lost sight of the little fellow. He continued on home, but he did not forget what he had seen that night.

What the Lord reveals, no man, woman, or child can ever forget. Especially to those with a conscience.

Cut to that soon to be frigid night a few weeks later. Billy had put in another long day. He was tired, but like most of us, happy just to be heading home. Suddenly, something familiar caught his eye. There, on the side of the road, that same little fellow. The ensuing weeks had not been kind. Billy noticed how much more markedly thin he'd become. His gait was unsteady. He must be starving, for he ran wildly to get into a fast food bag. He was eating ketchup off a hamburger wrapper.

Billy's heart sank. Then something came over him. He made a decision and took action.

He couldn't in good conscience allow this situation deteriorate any further. This poor soul couldn't survive another night out in the cold. It didn't matter how this little fellow came to be here by the side of the highway, starving and stumbling. Billy was going to change that beginning right now.

He jammed on his brakes, pulling over quickly to the side of the road.

The little fellow didn't see the van at first, but he sure as Hell heard it. He probably thought that this was the end, with him ending up under the tires of a wayward vehicle. He looked up from the well licked burger wrapper. The van had stooped. A man was running right at him. "This guy is coming after me!", he thought as he cowered back. Not knowing who the guy was or what he wanted, he turned towards the woods and started running as fast as his short, bony, wobbly legs could carry him.

Billy, too was running. He was running as fast as he could. It was clear that the little fellow's life depended on it. He had to catch him. It was the only viable option in his mind. The patches of snow weren't helping him. One slip in the snow and he'd have no chance of catching him. It was unsteady footing, yet he trudged on. Billy kept his eyes square on the little fellow as they both ran ran.

The little fellow never looked back. He couldn't. This was a case of "fight or flight" and he'd chosen "flight". The safety of the woods was close by, but sadly, not close enough. The weeks of living on the street, the cold nights, the lack of food and clean water were too much for him. His tired, underfed legs gave out. Everything went dark as he crashed to the ground. Surely death was near.

Billy saw the little fellow fall. He kept running, but his heart was sinking. Had he been too late? "Is he still alive?", he wondered as he came up on his frail little body.

He placed his hands on the little guy's ribs. He was mercifully still breathing. Billy was horrified at his condition. He could see just about every bone in the poor soul's body. His condition was deplorable. There was no time to waste, he had to get him some help. Billy scooped him up and carried him back to the warmth of the van.

There was a shelter nearby. They had limited medical resources, but it would have to do. This little lost soul needed warmth, water, and food, and needed it immediately. It wasn't more than a few moments and they had arrived. Billy scooped the little fellow off his front seat and carried him to the front desk. The volunteer sized up the situation and gasped.

"This one", she thought, "might not make it.".

Only time would tell.

To be continued

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