Consciously, or unconsciously we all do it to some extent, it's similar to racial processing. We see a person in the inner city, maybe an addict, alcoholic, poor, unwashed and unkept. Almost immediately, that Intel processor encased in the hard shell of our skulls starts whirling, and the printer in our mind spits out a label. With everything processed by appearance only, we attach the label to the person. More than anything it serves as a warning to our comfortable sensitivities.
But behind every appearance, behind every face, weather beaten with lines etched like scribbles on a piece of paper is a story of a deeply lived human drama. It has a story that needs to be told.
I met Steve upwards of eight years ago in the Capitol 6 parking lot. I was a wet, cold rainy night. Steve, speech slurred was likely on the down side of a few days of binge drinking. But, there was something, the strand that hung loosely between the two of us that seemed to connect. We talked for a bit, had a few laughs, and hugged each other as Steve walked into the dark wet night.
Steve came back, maybe not every Sunday, but, when he did show up we always made a point of connecting. It came to the point every Sunday, Steve would be on my mind. I would watch, and wait, and if he didn't show up, I would worry. Steve has become a friend over the years. Just last week, when I was handing out invitations and putting up posters for our new location at the Downtown Community Center I bumped into Steve. He was coming back from the bottle depot. It was the usual pointing at each other and laughing. We went for coffee, and talked.
Steve told me about his childhood years back. He came from a very loving family, had a great childhood. He would say it was kind of a fairy tale childhood, picture perfect. But, in high school he went to a party where there was alcohol, and he drank. One party led to another party, and soon the alcohol had taken control of his life. And to this day, it is a constant battle.
Steve is riddled with guilt. The fact he had such a great childhood, to end up where he is. It's the constant guilt of letting his parents down. I'm sure the guilt also fuels the drinking, to numb the little voice, that also points it's boney finger, telling him how unworthy he is.
He has tried numerous times to quit going into rehab, but, it is always short lived. Addiction, alcoholism is such a destroyer of life. I'm sure the reality is, at some point alcohol will take Steve's life.
But I do know one thing, more than anything else Steve needs love. In his 49 years, he's had enough guilt heaped on him by himself and others to suffocate him. It's up to me, and up to CARTS to dig him out of the guilt each week. We affirm every week how loved he is, and what a friend he is to each one of us. Through it all, we hope that Steve finds that image of God in himself. I don't want to get all religious, and talk about the "right" way to save someone. All I do know is the Jesus always mused that God was " Love", and that love conquers all. So at CARTS we love, and love and love. If anything, even more than words " Love " will reveal Steve that God like image.
Steve may never stop drinking, but, hopefully Love will stop him from beating himself up, and that he truly is a beloved child of his Heavenly Father.
Just remember, behind every face is a story...to be abundantly human is to listen. Because it is in the spaces, the pauses, between the lines we have the opportunity to insert love. Because it is with love, that we have the opportunity to change stories to a more loving ending.
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