I made my way through a gathering crowd of onlookers at the local Irving station to grab my lunchtime Diet Coke. Listening to them laugh and point at the young man standing in his underwear on the grass near the sidewalk outside, anger welled in my chest and burned into a bright flame. Local people, some I knew well. Couldn’t help but know them in a town as small as ours. They were a disappointment to me, every one of them.
I slid into my car and sadly eyed, George near the curb. Everyone knew George, he’d been an addict for years and had finally lost any mental capacity for understanding where he was or what he was doing. He’s become the brunt of hilarity in the community. People posted photos to social media of him standing or lying on the grass at various locations around the town. He was ridiculed and laughed at by most people. And then the police were always called to come talk to him.
“They just don’t have an ability to understand addiction.” I thought as I swiped a single tear from my cheek. I’ve been working with addicted young people for nearly twenty years, watched as various “new” drugs worked their way up the interstate into our own front doors. But right now, I was getting angry. Angry at the people of this community who lacked adequate empathy to do anything about poor George. Yet, here I was getting ready to turn the key and drive away, leaving them to laugh and joke at his expense. Not today.
I walked back to the Irving counter with a large Italian sandwich, chips and a bottle of water. I’ve shopped here since they opened, every day for my coke and I knew the cashier very well. We often talked about the weather, life issues and daily happenings around town. Today he said something about having called the police to move George.
“I don’t know what he wants out there,” he said laughing.
Looking him dead in the eye, with no smile whatsoever, “Maybe he wants a sandwich.” And walked away, marching through the band of onlookers who were still pointing and waiting to see what the police were going to do with George. Out the door and straight up to this young man in his underwear.
“George? Are you hungry George?”
He focused for a minute and looked at me as I handed him to bag of goodies.
“Oh yes, ma’am I am very hungry.”
“I got you a sandwich and some chips.” He was not sure what to do at that point. “The police are coming; you should put your pants on hon.” He took my hand and looked deeply into my eyes.
“You’re an angel ma’am. What’s your name?” I told him. “Thank you so much, God bless you. I am really hungry.”
“Enjoy, and you might want to get dressed before you talk to the police.” I smiled.
As I drove away I thought how hopeful that sandwich was to him. How if someone would try to help, try to understand, everything would be different. No one ever mentioned George again when I stopped for my daily coke, that is probably best they didn’t.