The very first time I laid eyes upon him, my heart broke wide open. It was clear, just by looking at him, that he was homeless. He was very filthy, wore dingy, mismatched oversized clothing that was way too big for his thin frame, and he smelled to high heaven. In fact, one could probably smell him a mile off: it was a combination of street grime, dirt, urine, sweat, and the stench of not taking a bath.
The man was probably in his fisties or sixties (though he looked much older). I really didn't know his story or how he had ended up homeless in the first place, but my heart went rigtht out to him.
I knew when I saw the man that I wanted to help ... somehow, some way.
I gathered up my courage as I walked up to this unfortunate soul. My heart (or was it the Lord talking??) told me to reach out in Christlike love; my inner self, meanwhile, had other ideas.
Clearing my throat, I introduced myself to this man, who had then told me his name. His name was Andrew Wilson Tedrow, but most everybody called him "Alfie" (short for Alfalfa) because he had grown up as a farm boy in Iowa. He told me he was on the streets because he had done drugs and the drugs left him a shadow of his former self.
The man said that the drugs "fried his brain" and he spent years in detox, trying to get rehabbed, but the medications he had been on wrecked his emotional state and was now mentally and emotionally disabled. He had suspected schizophrenic episodes where he would seem to sink from reality and talk and babble nonsense.
I didn't believe it for a second because as Alfie talked to me, he seemed level-headed and sane. His eyes held much hurt and emotion as he poured out his story. He just needed a good bath and a place to stay, let alone, food in his belly.
Alfie was a Veteran, he informed me: served in Vietnam. That also explained his state, he said. He had periods of PTSD due to Agent Orange, he said, and suffered frequent nightmares or flashbacks. As we talked, a car engine backfired and Alfie about came unglued. He screamed like a little girl and latched onto me as though I was a tree and held on, eyes wild from fright. I told him it was okay; he sooned calmed when I told him it was only a car backfiring, not a gun going off.
I looked hard at Alfie. He needed help. He didn't have anything but a few belongings to his person and it seemed that he hadn't had a good meal in since I don't know how long. He needed a place to sleep: the streets were not a place for a man who had served our country: he deserved far better.
What few teeth he had left in his mouth were stained and rotting out and his hair, which trailed down his back in a grey curtain, was stringy, matted, and crawling with bugs: you could see them walking in and out of his hair. His legs were swollen and reminded me of sausages about to burst; he walked with a bent up forearm crtuch that he had probably dug out of a Dumpster somewhere. It was also clear that Alfie needed medical attention ... and fast.
I decided that when I returned home, I would get busy and try to find some numbers to see if I could get some help for Alfie. He needed to know that someone cared for him and his well being and I wanted to be the starting point.
~To be continued.~