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Dear M,

March 28, 2022

Dear M,
When I received a call yesterday that someone was breaking into our storage unit at Gateway Church, I was frustrated and wanted to be mad… for the inconvenience to drive there, to confront the person, to see the damage.
But when we arrived there was no break-in. Instead we met you and my heart softened. You looked so tired and scared, so disconnected from the world I live in. We talked, you talked about being hunted, that someone in the storage unit was making noises, you needing to hide, that you needed to get back to Colorado, that you were tired. My heart broke for you. You looked so young and vulnerable, so broken and hurt, yet in some way determined to stand on your own feet.
I offered to take you to the Navigation Center, get you some food, but you slowly took up your meager belongings… all stuffed in a small plastic bag and left. By the time we cleaned up the cardboard boxes and the trash, you were gone.
I kept thinking about you last night, wondered if I could have done something else, said something else. I wondered what your life must have been like to be where you are. I prayed that you were safe for the night and that you would find help. I prayed that in my next encounter with you I would have a more compassionate heart.
This encounter reminded me of the many choices we make, the many decisions we make without being aware of the unintended consequences. The systems that have been established and yet often fail people with mental illness. While the media is full of Will Smith slapping someone at the Oscars, that wine and dine the most attractive and most successful people, there are hundreds of people in my neighborhood who are struggling with mental health issues and end up on the streets.
While Will Smith had a little meltdown that seems appropriate after 2 years of crazy COVID life (I am not trying to make excuses for violence), there are many more people who will never been, but walk our world aimlessly, lost in a world of their own. I don’t have solutions, all I know that my heart breaks for the person I see walking early in the morning with their blanket wrapped around them, the person who walks across the intersection on Olive and G without any awareness of cars around him. For M. who was so lost in her own world.
I am thankful for the Continuum of Care, the Rescue Mission, the D Street Shelter, Sierra Saving Grace and the many other places that are helping our homeless be safe. It is through good Mental Health Care (BHRS) that people can get help. But it is in the context of community that people will heal, it is in the context of deep trusting relationships that a person can find recovery and care.
So M. the next time I see you I want to take time to engage more, hear your story and recognize that the story of humanity flows together and that we need each other to live well.

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