The Window and the Bus Stop
Snug as a smug bug in a self-righteous rug.
I stared out of my window at him. Up here on the second floor. He was a big man who looked small from my view. He was pacing with a limp back and forth in front of the "Loser Building." It has that name from the neighborhood whispers, including myself. There were about fifteen people waiting to board a white bus that was probably donated by the city.
The bus was running and wasting tax money. Most of the people looked impoverished and all but two were obese. They were all waiting to take the bus to their homes or shelters. I focused on the one man because he was a giant compared to the others. I could see that his coat was too small. His belly protruded out and his shirt bottom flapped in the wind.
I didn't like the thoughts in my head as a couple of them lit their cigarettes. Suddenly, the big man looked right at me. I couldn't move! I wanted to back away from the window but I froze!
I felt my soul being ripped out of my body and slammed into the lives of those very people! I felt eyes of shame and condescending grins. I felt fists of drunken fathers and belt slaps of abusive mothers! I felt people calling me, "Trash" in their minds and the uncaring looks in their eyes spilled the spirit out of me. I felt the indignity of begging for a handout for my children. I could feel the emotions of a family who hated to see me. The guilt and thoughts of being looked upon as worthlessness were like nails in my heart.
I would go from a cowering child in a corner to a crying father who couldn't find work because of his injuries. Every "Yes" I heard was out of pity and every "No" was cold and brutal. Then I began to feel their physical pain. It hurt so bad, I couldn't breathe. I felt like busting the window with my fist but I still couldn't move!
Then, I was in a jungle. I felt cold and wet. I saw leeches on my hands and felt like scratching every part of my body. I was holding on to a rifle like it was my very life. I could hear and see bullets spitting through leaves of the dense, soaked plants. I heard screaming from someone to "Pull Back!" I could see shadows in the darkness. The shadows that wanted to kill me. I began to crawl and felt a sharp pain in my hip.
I crawled into a puddle of rain and blood. A soldier was breathing hard and crying for help! I crawled over him and grabbed his arm to pull him with me. I was strong. I pulled him easily and kept telling him that he would see his mom again. I shouted at God in the rain,"You can't f**king kill me. I won't die! I will not let him die!" The pain was excruciating! It felt like I had pulled him a thousand yards. I could hear a chopper, the 60 mm gun.....and then voices shouting for survivors.
I snapped out of my trance and felt like throwing up. I was more ashamed of myself than I had ever been before. I had been judging the covers of books without turning as much as a page. I gathered my senses and noticed that the people were all on the bus except the big man.
He walked with a limp around the bus, opened the driver's door, looked up at me and smiled. I could now see that he was wearing a Vietnam Veteran's hat. He is still getting people home. He had just pulled me through the jungle. The jungle of humanity.
Picture of my father in a German feild. WWII
I added the picture of my father above because he taught me better than to look down on anyone. He fought in and survived The Battle of the Bulge and The Battle of Bastogne. I believe we are extremely lucky if God, the Great Spirit, the Universe or whatever you wish to say, teaches us a lesson.
The great irony is that I now work with people such as those I looked down on that day. They range from sweet, quiet and thankful to grumpy, helpless and entitled. What they all have in common is they are fighting to get through another day just like the rest of us.
The world has beaten much of the fight out of them but they still persist and often help each other get by. When people shout, "Get a job loser!".....another little bit of hope is sliced from a spirit. Most would work harder than the person shouting at them. Many are hanging on the bottom of an unsure government net.
I hear people sometimes say, "Well...what in the hell is wrong with him/her? They don't looked disabled. Why aren't they working?"
I say, "Spend a little time with them and you will realize...."Why aren't they working?" Most mental disorders can't be seen. Most people with these disorders are fighting everyday just to keep the little sanity and normality they have.
Thankfully, there are many entities, both private and government that people can turn to. There is housing, food, education and job assistance available to those who are seeking help.
A woman who once lived on the streets for years, stood on the steps of one of our outreach homes, crying and said, "I didn't know I could get help like this. I didn't know anyone cared." She later found a job, a church and a home of her own.
There are more stories like hers and many fine folks are out there trying to help. Most who serve within the mental health circles are not paid well, yet they are dedicated to their work and the people because they do care.
They prove everyday that a little help and understanding can go a long way.
© 2010 Tom Cornett