Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Just "lucky to be here"

I’m just “lucky to be here” indicated James as he sat beside me in a local restaurant. “I’m the last person in the world who thought I’d be homeless.”

Looking at James, you’d understand his disbelief. He’s a well dressed, handsome, middle aged, well educated man whose life just didn’t pan out as he expected. But it didn’t happen overnight. His life came crashing down gradually over a period of seven very unlucky years. The hardship began with a painful divorce from his wife that resulted in several consecutive losses—his daily life with his beloved children, his home, his middle class life with all of its familiar comforts.

The next domino fell as James was laid off from his job of 20 years within the aviation industry where he worked as a Senior Tech Specialist and Project Manager for Boeing. Then the economy tanked, which made it difficult for him to transition to another job in the midst of a glutted job market in California.

Upon learning of his father and uncle’s failing health, James made a decision to move to Indiana to be with them during their final years. He’d already suffered the loss of his mother several years earlier.  At this point, James had roughly $20 in his pocket, along with the contents of his car. He lived in his car and stayed with family until both his uncle and father passed away. James was able to find various odd jobs to keep his head above water until his own health took a dramatic downturn.

“My heart stopped all the time.” James reports that he’d walk short distances and feel fatigued. Finally, he ended up in the hospital after passing out cold in the middle of the street one day. His doctors wouldn’t let him leave the hospital as they were concerned that he may have a “death experience”. After enduring an endless battery of tests, James was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure and was gifted with a combination pacemaker/ defibrillator in April of 2013.

This fall, James was hired on as the House Manager for Gennesaret Men’s Recovery Home, a place that allows homeless men to recover from various surgeries and physical ailments. James is appreciative of Gennesaret and most enjoys listening to the other men coming into the home. “I know what they’re talking about because I was there--they let down their shield and open up to me-- because they know I can relate.”

I asked James about lessons learned from these life-changing experiences.  “I didn’t appreciate things—more importantly, I didn’t appreciate people, relationships. I didn’t even appreciate myself.” James looked into Dean’s eyes, his Trusted Mentor, as he shared this lesson. It’s evident that their relationship is one that both men appreciate. It’s one that’s reciprocal as Dean shares that he too had a life altering injury and has therefore reordered his priorities in life. He too has set aside more time for relationships, including the one that he shares with James.

Dean is a member of Grace Church and serves every Sunday with their Circle City Relief ministry downtown, feeding the hungry and homeless. Dean connected with Trusted Mentors because he wanted to do more—he wanted to walk with someone through the tough times. It turns out that Dean and James have helped each other heal in a relationship of reciprocal support.