It’s been almost two weeks since my last update on my friend Daniel. Man. I’m sorry it may have seemed like I neglected the post (or him), but that’s actually not the case.
You see, things haven’t played out like I thought they would. E and I have made it a point to see Daniel almost on a daily basis, however, the last time I had quality time with him was when I went by myself on June 27th. I wanted to tell you all about it, but I couldn’t bring myself to. I’ve dreaded this update because it’s painfully difficult for me to write about things that don’t feel good, aren’t resolved, and may never be.
I’m a sucker for the feel good; the let’s-all-root-for-the-under-
This one is not one of those.
In fact, instead of sitting down to share the latest with you, I spent the last week or so binge-watching JoJo’s season of The Bachelorette, avoiding the inevitable.
There’s no denying that those reality TV shows are totally time-suckers, my goodness it was the biggest distraction. I think Jordan is going to win, or come close. And Chad! Oh thank heavens she gave him the boot. Of course, many people have speculated that he’s just a paid actor. E tells me the whole show is rigged. C’mon babe, this is equivalent to your fantasy baseball league that I lovingly tolerate. 😉
See, there I go again beating around the bushes.
Now, here we are.
Daniel got into the passenger seat of my car. (Well, not my car. My moms. Remember, we just sold my car in preparation for our move to Chicago, so I’m in a season of borrowing cars.) I asked if he was thirsty since it was such a hot day. We decided to drive through Starbucks. He wanted an iced water. I ordered my usual, an iced Carmel macchiato. I tried talking him into ordering a coffee drink or getting a cake pop at least, but insisted that he was just thirsty for water. He wanted to meet a basic need and wished for nothing more.
You want to know something? My stereotype of homeless men, like Daniel, was always that they’d be manipulative, creepy, liars. I know it sounds harsh, but it’s the truth. Before now, that’s how I would’ve thought them to be. The kind of person to ask for things and be picky, despite the saying “beggars can’t be choosers.” Much to my surprise, all of my preconceived notions about people like Daniel have been wrong. I’m not saying they’re wrong across the board, but not even one time has Daniel asked me for anything. He’s graciously accepted my offers, rides, food, etc., but not once has he acted entitled or tried to get something from me. He’s always looked me in the eye when we converse. He’s always answered my questions even when I know he’s annoyed by how much I talk. He’s never forgotten to say “thank you” when we’ve helped him in any way. He’s never made me feel uncomfortable or nervous. He’s been consistent in his actions, words, and demeanor (even though he’s currently not medicated for his schizophrenia). He’s not full of excuses, but honest in his mistakes.
As we pulled away from the drive thru, Daniel confessed something to me. He admitted that he had multiple theft felonies on his record. This was a piece of his story I had not known before that moment. Sure, we had discussed criminal records briefly before, but it’s not like I ever point-blank asked him. He never told me he had a clean record, but he also hadn’t told me otherwise. My point is- he never lied to me. And as our relationship has grown, he’s become more vulnerable and has opened up a lot.
I admire his ability to share the truth at the risk of pushing me away. It doesn’t though. Truth is the tether that binds us together. (I wasn’t trying to rhyme or rap, but for real.)
Daniel and I talked more about the felonies, then I asked him, “Have you turned your paperwork in to Janis?” (That’s his assigned case worker through vocational rehabilitation. And as soon as he turns in his paperwork the ball will get rolling.)
“No, I keep puttin’ it off.” *Turns his head so he doesn’t have to look in my direction*
I pressed, “Daniel, WHY????!”
Like the mother of a stubborn child I wanted to say, “You have no other choice! I know what’s best for you! Do it because I said so!” But I didn’t. Obviously he’s a grown man and can make decisions for himself. It doesn’t make me any less frustrated though.
It’s really thrown me for a loop; not being able to make someone else make a decision. Especially one that will help them and improve their quality of life.
I think I’m experiencing just a hint of the anguish God must feel when we don’t obey Him. After all, He truly knows what’s best for us; if only we’d trust Him.
When Daniel got out of the car and hobbled back over to his spot on the corner again, it was awkward. More awkward than it had ever been. Despite him telling me that he wants to get a job and expressing his frustration over still not receiving disability payments, he made it clear to me that he’s made a choice. The choice to carry on with his life the way it is. A choice I cannot understand, nor can I do anything about.
With tears in my eyes and the most deflated heart, I called Janis on the road home. This wasn’t our first time talking. This time we chatted for about 15 minutes as she explained to me (from the stance of someone who works with people like this for a living) more of the in’s and out’s and repeated cycles that happen with someone in Daniel’s shoes.
In a nutshell, she basically told me that when it comes to a person who has a mental disability (like Schizophrenia), that alone can be a huge barrier for them to be a normal, participating citizen in society. Not to mention the difficulties that come with a person who has constant address changes, phone number changes, felonies on their record, and the stubbornness that my friend Daniel has.
My previous phone call with Janis had ended with a smile on my face and a, “Talk soon!” But not this one.
This one was awkward and full of disappointment. We said our “good-bye’s” and even our “best of luck to you’s” as I secretly lost it like a big baby.
And so I cried the whole way home and like I do so often, I began to talk to God out loud. This conversation wasn’t our usual, full of thanks and praise. I was upset and I let Him know it. I was heartbroken and even a little embarrassed that I’d tried so hard in the first place. Here I’d put it all out there, even let people in to become a part of it, hopeful to touch hearts and stir a movement of radical love…and now it “ends” like this?
That’s the whole point of my blog though, right? Let people in. Even if you don’t know what lies ahead.
I suppose if nothing else, maybe this story will be used to show people that following Jesus doesn’t always look pretty and sometimes things don’t play out the way we want them to.
Without a sliver of doubt, I know that I heard God speak directly to me to pick up Daniel that day over one month ago. I have no regrets of the time and energy I’ve invested into him. He is still and will always be our friend. We will continue to visit him when we can. We will be praying for him daily. We will reach out over and over again and not lose hope. Why? Because hope is the beautiful answer to life’s hardest questions.
Hope is all we’ve got, friends.