Chicken & Cigarettes - Pt. 3 - George  

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"Ask the poor, they will tell you who the Christians are." - Mahatma Gandhi

So as we walked up and said "Hi," we were greeted rather warmly, yet with obvious curiosity. We were asked who we were and kinda what we were doing in the park. We weren't sure how to give a very good answer, so we simply told them we wanted to hang out and meet some people. They were notably surprised, and asked "you want to hang out here and hang out with us? When you could do so many better things in Baltimore?" We responded by saying "well we couldn't figure there was much better to do than meet some real people and get to know you all a little." One of the younger men said "you all are Christians, right?"

Maybe Gandhi was on to something? That or maybe that's because it's as simple as Jesus says "They will know you are my disciples by the way you love one another." - John 13:35.

So we sat down with them in the cement section in the middle of the park which surrounded one of the park benches. We all introduced ourselves, and Galen and I joined them in casual conversation. This was nice and simple. An easy first step! There was an older man sitting on the far end of the park bench closest to me who had not said anything. He turned and peered at me through kind eyes, gave me a beautiful smile which featured half a bottom row of teeth and no top teeth, and asked me "What did you say your name was again?" I introduced myself again and he said, "Good to meet you, my name is George."

He proceeded to tell me what was on his heart, his story. He was hard to understand, as a great lack of teeth can make it hard to speak clearly, and repeated himself over and over again. His breath reeked of alcohol and he had tough leathery skin which had seen it's fair share of hot days in the sun and hard nights on park benches. I would put him at about 60 years of age and the story he told me spanned about the last 20. This is George's story:

23 years ago George was laid off from his job in the city. He had trouble finding work and lived off of unemployment for a little while. He never finished high school, so finding work became very difficult. He began to use drugs and alcohol to cope with his troubles. He was addicted to alcohol and drugs (my guess is cocaine from all outward signs) for 18 years. As he talked, you could begin to hear and notice the toll drugs had taken on his mental abilities. My heart went out to him.

He bounced from mission to mission for a while seeking help. Finally, 5 years later, with the help of a Christian program he got off of drugs. He has been drug free ever since, not one relapse. 18 years of Hell and misery, and he's been free for 5 years! He told me how he still struggles with alcohol as he looked down at his Budweiser can which was 90% empty. He said he hurts so much and wishes he could quit drinking. He looked at me and smiled again saying, "It's so nice to have a nice, clean-cut person willing to listen to my story."

While in the latest program George met a girl. Her name was Karen. They made it a habit to see each other every day for the past year. Karen is currently in a program, I do not know what kind of program, according to George she does not do any drugs and does not drink. The program she is in currently is a typical, non-coed program. George hasn't seen Karen for the last month and a half because of this. He told me how he missed her so much. While they had seen each other last, George was attending another program, trying to break free of alcohol addiction. He and Karen had decided that they would get married when they were both out of their current programs, but Karen had an ultimatum; George had to quit drinking. George had quit the program he'd been in and was again on the streets drinking. As he looked down at his Budweiser can another time, i could feel his heart breaking over his inability to beat this demon in his life. He longs to quit so that he could marry this woman he loves and wants to get back into a program so that he can get off the streets and get a job and hopefully be able to afford a place for the two of them.

To an outsider, George's mental disabilities seem like they would make a complete success in this goal nearly impossible. My heart went out to him, though somewhere deep inside of myself I know that all things are possible through Christ. After George had told me the same information about fifteen times and came to a stopping point, he began looking down at his Budweiser one more time, twirling it in his hand so as to make the beer inside make a "swish-swash" sound back and forth. I reached out and took a hold of his tough, leathery, calloused hand and asked him if I could say a quick prayer for him. I simply prayed that God would help free him from his addiction and make it to where he and Karen could get married and have their own place. It was a very simple, quick prayer, no more than about 20 seconds. He smiled at me one last time and told me he'd be on his way and thanked me so much for what I had done, saying one more time how nice it was to have someone listen. As he left I promised him I would continue to pray for him, and that he had to get himself into a program. He smiled and nodded his head.

I only saw George one more time. He came back later in the evening, and asked us if we were planning on sleeping outside. We said "yes." A couple others said "why would you sleep outside if you don't have to? If you can afford not to, I wouldn't do it."

We replied by saying "well, if you all are doing it, and we're spending time with you, why should we go sleep in a warm hotel room for the night? If you all are out here tonight, then so will we be."

George let us know he'd be going to the local mission to spend the night, and maybe join their program. Praise God. He told us they take people in every night, and we could go there if we didn't want to sleep outside. We told him it was ok and we would still stay outside, but thanked him for his generous help.

We wished him luck, and I told him one last time that I would continue to pray for him.

"Thank you! I will need it."

This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 10, 2008 at 3:17 AM and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

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