A “little Irish drunk,” as he called himself, stood at a whopping 5’2″ and weighed in at 110 lbs, soaking wet. His eyes were like a bright blue crayon, with red around the sides from drinking and not sleeping near enough. He lit a handmade cigarette, taken from used up butts he pulled from trashcans earlier and smoked with me. He was all smiles and recognized me from the cot fiasco the night before.
“So, Patrick. What’s your story?” I asked. I’ve learned those simple words can bring about stories and emotions I never dreamed possible.
He began, telling me he was an alcoholic, and he’d experienced so many people who didn’t think it was a real disease, who just wrote him off as a drunk, he figured no one thought much more of him. I told him about Dad, allowing him to relax and continue. He started drinking in 1976. Even with on and off sobriety and places like Serenity Park and numerous rehabs, he has still remained a victim of this ferocious disease.
When he lost his brother and father in the 80s, Patrick fell off the wagon. He picked himself up, but then multiple surgeries, crises, pain medication, lost jobs later, he continued on and off the wagon for the next 30 years.
At one point, someone said he could live on his back porch. HIS BACK PORCH. But he had to be gone by the time he left in the morning.
Patrick has no friends or family in Little Rock. The last I heard, he was living “down at the railroad tracks”. He has no tent or anything to protect him from the elements. He showed up where I was working with a big smile on his face, never complaining about his life, but just enjoying the company and trying to spread what little joy he’d found in his downtrodden life to others.
He is a hugger and since I share that inclination, we enjoyed many hugs over the three days I knew him.
He was less concerned for himself, saying he had wasted his chances and now was focusing on getting one of his buddies into the program at Serenity Park.
Patrick, and the men and women like him, don’t fear work. They aren’t lazy. They have had a long run-in with bad luck and can’t seem to pull themselves up.
Society told them they were worthless, and they believed it for so long, they don’t understand what worth is anymore.
How do you make someone in that world feel loved, and feel the true worth that God sees in them? How do we convince people NOT in that world that God does, indeed, see worth in all, including the homeless?
UPDATE: I can tearfully and joyfully report that as of today (Monday), Patrick is sober, has a dry place to sleep in his NEW tent, has a phone and a way to get a hold of a friend if he’s in trouble or feels like he needs a drink and has been offered a part-time job. God is great.
A big THANK YOU to my friend, Crystal. You’re a hero… not just to me. You know why.