I Never Missed Toledo Until I Was Homeless (Part 6)
His name is Drew and I’m convinced he’s a saint.
No more than 5”7’ and around 150 pounds, Drew is new like me to the City Mission, having stayed exactly one more night than I. Also like me he’s in a crisis, looking for a new beginning to life, tho for different reasons.
Drew tells me he’s here because he was addicted to meth and is trying to escape his old life. Having seen friends go crazy on the drug, he called the mission and was told they had a spot for him. 20 mintues after than phone call he was out the door and headed here.
He tells me he’s from Brunswick, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland tho I have no idea where that’s at. He was working at a metal factory, working a stamping machine, but is cryptic but his current situation. I gather from talking with him that he was living with his mom and then some friends who got him hooked on the horrible drug. He says he’s 20 years old and I see hope. If he can escape his life then maybe I can get out of mine.
For the first two days at the shelter Drew is my only friend and source of relief from my current suffering. He’s lively and spirited, offering a joke when I’m down and a cigaret when I crave nicotine. We spend a good portion of the day sitting in the day room shooting the shit and the rest heading out to a patio where we smoke and freeze in the last vestiges of winter. And finally, by the third day, we go for a walk.
Drew seems a little timid as we walk thru midtown Cleveland, constantly looking over his shoulder and and behind us. He tells me he’s never lived in the city and that he’s always heard it’s dangerous. I wish I could disagree with him but I can’t. Having grown up in the east side of Toledo, the poor part of my hometown, I can only relate. I was jumped 3 times in my youth and eventually grew a backbone. And as much as I want to poke fun of him looking over our shoulders, the truth is I look over mine just as well. Such is the nature of the beast.
The guy tells me tho that he’s a survivor, having survived for four months in snow and cold as a child when he ran away from home. To protect himself he stole a tarp from a construction site and slept on 3 inches of the snow out in the woods. I ask how he ate. He tells me he stole food from a local grocery store. What he’d do pass the time? He tells me he huddled under a blanket and slept on the tarp. That’s enough to convince me he’ll make it.
I ask Drew what his plans are as we make our way to downtown Cleveland, killing time and enjoying the rare hint of warmth and sunshine. He’s trained in HVAC and has a job lined up for him. But he has to get thru the program here at the mission first. I ask what the program is.
The mission offers a year long course in anger management and humility, all under the guide of christ and is unofficially run by Baptists. I didn’t even know they had such a training but I’m intrigued. The more I hear about it from Drew the more I realize I need to be a part of this program. This is the start of my own rehabilitation but at the moment I’m lost in Drew’s words.
Drew also mentions that he’s here to get over his own meth addiction. I feel a twinge of guilt because I have no addiction, nor acoholism, nor have been recently been released from prison. I have no reason to be at this shelter in my mind even tho the reality is I have my own problems I’m dealing with, mainly that being my sanity. But I can’t find myself until I acknowledge my own shortcomings. And in this moment I can only offer advice to Drew.
He tells me he has a bus ticket back home in case he has to leave, and with my own past of living with my parents from the age of 24 to 30, I tell him to sell the fucker and never look back. My words seem to stick because by the next week Drew tells me he sold the ticket for a dollar and used it to buy a twinkie. I’ve done all I can for him.
As I mentioned, Drew’s a saint. I mention that I have no underwear or shirts and by the end of the day Drew lends me 5 pairs of underwear and 2 t-shirts. He asks for nothing in return, and on top of all the cigarets he’s loaned me I feel indebted. Generosity suits him well and I realize the kid has heart.
Which is why it’s so hard to see him stumble after 4 weeks in the shelter. As Drew stays there we get moved into a south dorm where we sleep with other men. Instead of cots we sleep on beds now, as as time passes Drew moves on from me and towards other men who seem to bring him down. Where there once was a happy goofy guy there now is a kid, bitter and resentful. Instead of lending cigarets he now charges 50 cents for one Newport.
He begins selling stuff, first his notebook to me for a dollar and then a phone charger. People rip him off, promise to pay him later, and then bale. He starts bitching more. Eventually I can’t stand to be near him.
And then when it seems pretty bad, Drew comes up to the dorm one night angry. He tells me his brother, who was going to visit him the next day, died of a heroin overdose the night before. I have no words to offer him. No sage advice. Only a question in my own heart. Who did this to him? And why does he have to suffer?
Questioning suffering has been on my mind lately. Coming here I asked myself why I went thru torture. Why I spent a cumulative year of my life in a psych ward. Why I was homeless. And now why Drew’s life was heading down such a dark path.
The answer is obvious. Drew was going thru a trial, one I had failed many times. Can we handle adversity without succumbing to our worst instincts? For me this was giving into worry, doubt, and worst of all, anxiety. I thought I could work my way out of my problems. Get a job, stay busy, move out of my parents’ house, and eventually form a new life. And what that got me was nothing.
I was proud, resentful, envy, and as I demosntrated in a earlier article, a thief. I subcummed to anger and blamed others for my problems, disobeying authority, when I now realize the only authority I ever had to listen to was God’s grace. And here I see myself now in Drew. A man with so much potential and heart and yet driven by his own blindness of faults. I see now how a 20 year sees himself as blameless when the reality is the problem lies within himself. And thru seeing Drew’s own blindness, I become aware of my own. And that is enough to tell me I’m on the right path being here in the mission, one that will lead to total submission to God’s will, which I’ve learned is called a Covenant. And that is what I seek.
As for Drew, I see a kid who has heart but is lost in anger and pride. He tells me he doesn’t need this program, which is masked as a rehabiliation program but is essentially an exercise in faith and humility, which I know is what Drew needs. But explaining this to him is useless. Who am I to preach when I am merely the student? What Drew needs is a voice that can speak to him. I can only offer advice. But I know that if Drew can make it thru this program then I can as well. And that is enough to give me hope.