Today I was driving down the road in traffic caught up in a swirl of deep thoughts. So many seemingly unrelenting and insurmountable challenges in Life. I continue to surrender wholly to the Divine. To the Holy Spirit. To Aloha. Complete Trust. Lest I Perish.
Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of a disheveled man in a wheelchair on the side of the street as I sped by. Freddie I excitedly and momentarily thought. I wasn't sure if it was him as by the time I could look in my sideview mirror, he was blocked from view.
I continued to drive plotting how to make enough turns to eventually circle back and run past that man again. I prayed it was Freddie. I hadn't seen him in over a year and had been worried about his welfare.
I first met Freddie in 2013, five years ago while walking to work and it turned out to be one of my most memorable Spiritual encounters and a powerful Lesson for me. Our paths crossed again in 2015, right before my Heart surgery and that encounter, and Freddie's Prayers for me, as he stood their covered in black dirt from head-to-toe, as we embraced, helped me to not only survive that surgery, but thrive as well since then.
As I drove up this time, I slowed down, straining to see this man's face. It was Freddie. I couldn't believe it. I slowly pulled up and the only metered space right next to him opened up as the car pulled out. I slid in and waited anxiously for Freddie to see me. He threw his arms up in the air, rocked his head back and forth, and grinned from ear-to-ear. I smiled as wide as I could as well as my Heart filled with Joy.
I got out and gave him a giant hug as I let him know how much I missed him. He kept smiling and laughing, despite presenting himself in one of the most sorry sights I have seen on the street. He kept saying, "Thank you Jesus! Oh man! What a Blessing!"
I quickly learned that about a year ago, he had taken a bad fall on the street. He really hurt his hip. About two months into the injury, which steadily worsened, his hip was turning septic and it got really infected. Someone called 911 despite his protests and he ended up in the hospital for six months.
He had developed a blood clot in his leg that was inoperable and gangrene had already set in. As he sat there in his wheelchair, he pulled up his small blanket, and where I had thought he had one leg folded up underneath him, he showed me the stump where the doctors had removed his leg above the knee.
I was so saddened to see him in that condition, but so very grateful that he was still alive. He lamented the loss of his leg and talked about the intense pain he still felt, phantom pain, from a foot that was no longer there. Like a foot burning on fire as he described it.
He then smiled and showed me a container of what looked like shoyu chicken that a young woman had just bought and dropped off with him, unsolicited. He said, "Wasn't that nice of her? Thank you God."
Despite his dirty appearance, his eyes were bright and clear. As was his voice, continuing to proclaim his Faith in Christ. Kind. Humbled. Gracious. Grateful. That is how I always knew him, and he seemed to still be that person despite the physical, mental and emotional suffering he continued to endure.
He regretfully admitted that he is still struggling with Meth when I flat out asked him. He said he knows it is insidious. It is his only escape and reprieve right now. It makes him feel like Superman he said, if only for a brief while, until he crashes back down to his grim reality.
He said he never felt so dirty in his entire Life. Sometimes he is so exhausted and delirious that he ends up urinating on himself in his chair because he can't get up in time. He said he had a bout of diarrhea for a week and kept soiling himself, having to sit in his own filth until he could find a clean pair of shorts. I could see him embarrassed to speak his Truth, as his voice quieted down, and his head lowered.
I reassured him that even those of us with roofs and indoor plumbing can suffer the same indignation of this Human Experience. He shouldn't be ashamed. We discussed his clothing needs and waist size so I can assemble a care package, unbeknownst to him.
We talked about his case managers and his upcoming opportunity to get into a rehab program, and qualify for shelter, but he admitted that his meth usage makes it harder for him to remember his appointments and any semblance of a schedule. Days just flow into each other.
As we talked, a nice dressed man in his late twenties stopped by with a grocery bag which had a bottle of water, a Zip-Pac meal and a few other things. Freddie smiled and looked up yelling "thank you brother!" The young man looked at me, as he continued walking by, straining to look back, as I sat in a broken chair next to Freddie, holding his hands, "Looks like we both have the same idea" he yelled, smiling.
I responded, "Yes brother. Thank you so much! Truly!"
Freddie said, "You see. I am grateful that people show such kindness. Now that I am in a wheelchair, people are even more kind."
We continued to talk. Freddie would look up at just about every passerby and give them a Hearty "Hi!" with his infectious missing teeth smile. Some people just pretended not to have seen him, or not to have heard him, and quickened their pace as they walked by.
I reassured him, that it wasn't him, it was because I was sitting there next to him. I could present a very intimidating wretched sight myself. We both laughed.
Freddie was tired, as he yawned frequently, and his eyes strained at times to stay open. I knew that he needed to eat something, as did he, as he began reaching for his plate of chicken. So I asked him if we could pray before he ate as I had to resume my journey. He smiled and said that he would love it.
We sat there, holding hands. I Prayed my Heart out. We both let the tears fall freely, as people seemingly slowed their pace as they walked past such a sight.
I helped him open his chicken container and let him know he had a bottle of cold water in the other bag that the man had dropped off.
He started eating his chicken as he was so ravenous. I asked him what he wanted to drink besides water. He talked about how he had tried this ginger drink and it was so refreshing for his body. I asked him if it was the "Ginger Rush" drink. He broke out in a big smile and exclaimed, "Yes! That's the one! That ginger is so good for me. It makes me feel so good..."
I told him that I would be right back and if he needed anything else. He said thank you and that would be all he would like.
So I drove around the block and made my way to a grocery store, and bought the biggest "Ginger Rush" I could find. By the time I got back, which was about fifteen minutes later, he was passed out in his chair, chicken bones on the little wood box next to him, and pieces of uneaten chicken sitting in the container. His head back, mouth wide open, and snoring. I felt bad having to wake him, as I know in his Dreams he has his leg again, and a better Life.
As I exited my car and the door closed, he opened his eyes, somewhat startled, and I smiled and said "Here is your ginger drink" as I opened the top for him. He had told me earlier about how he had lost his fingernails so it was hard to do things. I had tried to look but only saw blackened dirty finger tips. He shared a story about accidentally dropping his loose change which spilled all over the sidewalk and a nicely dressed lady bent down and helped pick up all of his coins for him as he couldn't bend over in his wheelchair, or pick them up with his fingers.
He started gulping down his ginger drink, then pushed his plate of chicken towards me saying, "Oh man Kai, you gotta try this chicken. It is so good. Seriously, try some."
I laughed and let him know that he is so kind. I knew he was exhausted still. He needed to eat and then sleep.
He also shared that when he passes out, and sleeps, that is when people steal his things. He lost his backpack that way, and other personal items. I knew this to be true from many other stories from others who shared about Life on the Street with me.
I explained to him that he will undergo one of the hardest battles of his Life. For his Life. Feeling like Superman comes with a heavy price. It is short-lived, and creates an endless trap which is harder and harder to escape from.
He said, "I know man, it is quick, and then it is over, and then I am right back in a hole again. It is like the Devil. Just waiting for, and watching me slowly die."
I said there is a point, a place, where you get in Life, where you feel like Superman all the time. It comes from the Holy Spirit. The Power of Love. It comes from a place so deep inside, that it sustains itself without drugs or anything else. You can get there brother. I Love You. You got this...
He excitedly proclaimed, "I know! I know! You feel great all the time! You don't need nothing! It is the Holy Spirit!"
We embraced a few more times, and then I organized his area, and got back in my car. I rolled down the window, and we both just looked at each other for what seemed like a drawn out moment, as the Earth slowed slightly in its rotation to extend time, to extend this important moment in both of our Lives.
I started my car engine, and while looking at those bright hopeful eyes, I said, "Freddie, I Love you brother."
"I love you Kai..." he responded. "Thank you Jesus."
I said, "You see all these people walking past? You are no different from them. They are no different than you. Than me. Than us."
"Remember that. I will be back to check on you now that I know where you are at."
"Thank you" he said.
"You got this Freddie. You Truly got this. Love you..." as I drove off with him waving.
So this turned out to be a story about Kindness, Hope, Faith, Gratitude, Humility, Perseverance, Suffering, Sacrifice and Love.
I witnessed a parade of kind people stopping to show Aloha to a man in dire need. Freddie lifts my Spirits and delivers me Hope in the form of Human Suffering. Resiliency of Spirit. Freddie Inspires me. He is Truly my Savior. Wearing his Crown of Thorns...
And for those who think Hawai'i is headed down a dark path of irreparable change for the worse, please think again.
Love still abounds. Everywhere. The Cleanest Purest of Hearts in the seemingly Dirtiest Filthiest of Vessels...