A friend of mine and I were heading back from Union Station last night and we stopped into 7-11 for a Slurpee. A man came in and said “a bum got beat up and is bleeding, I think someone should call the police?” My friend and I hurried out of the store and the man gave us directions to the victim. As we approached there was another man and his son who were concerned and standing nearby the hurt man.
Kneeling down and asking some basic questions, it was evident this man had been bloody for days and had stitched up wounds along with a few fresh cuts. He also had no desire to be helped. I asked if it would be ok if I simply washed some of the blood away so he wouldn’t appear to have been freshly beaten up. He agreed, so back to 7-11 I went for some napkins and water.
Once I returned, the father and son fetched a 1st aid kit from their car (they were tourists visiting from Michigan). For the next hour I got to know “David” as I used peroxide, q-tips, wet-wipes, wet papertowels, alcohol wipes and a little elbow grease to clean his wounds. What a man I was sitting with. What a man. From the outside he looked terrifying. Underneath the obvious effects of alcohol and homelessness, I discovered a 58 year old man, the father of 2, twins, living in a nearby suburb with his ex-wife. I discovered a man who swam competitively in high school and college. This was a man who had worked in the loop for years as a consultant to businesses. He worked in the CNA building – a building anyone in Chicago knows – it’s the big ol Red building in the sky-line.
As I sat there with “David” an interesting thing happened – the tourist father began to tell me his story. I hadn’t asked, but he needed to tell me.
20 years ago he had been living in CA with his wife and kids – but was a junkie (his words). His wife left him and he hit rock bottom – cried out to God and found an Our Daily Bread. He found his way back to God and his family. He’s living sober and reunited with his family in Michigan now. Has been for years.
These men were the same. Really.
And if we are granted the grace to see it – we are the same too.
We are. I am. You are.
It is not until we can face our inner junkie, our inner alcoholic, our inner abuser, our unarguable brokenness that we can sit with others who are suffering (as we all are) and show compassion.
Tourist dad from MI said something else that struck me; “This is my vacation. It’s not the buildings and the tours – it’s this. This is what I’m taking back with me.”
I hope and pray this man found some peace and healing to his own wounds as I treated “David”s. I pray Tourist Dad from MI felt the caked on blood and grime of his own dark past being wiped away as I tenderly cared for “Dave.” And I pray when Tourist Dad from MI goes back to MI and faces suffering in his family, neighborhood and community that he is empowered to kneel down and have compassion.
That is what JUSTembrace is about. And I’m learning that teaching compassion starts with receiving compassion. And Jesus – God With US – is the foundation for compassion. Com-Passion – to suffer with.