I looked for him for a few weeks at our Sunday feed. But then honestly; I forgot about him. Lots of homeless people come and go without a word.
Steve was a big guy, a little taller than me at 6’4. He was in his forties, with a full head of dark curly hair, overweight and jowly like a lot of middle age guys, including myself. He could have outbursts of anger, but was definitely sensitive with a keen sense of humor. He would use the humor to defuse tense situations, and to talk himself down from being angry.
He was also very bright and could see people’s games pretty clearly and he would call bullshit on the helping community at the Reach Out Center when they needed it, instead of grinning and baring it, like a lot of folks who get free services. If I say what I think, these free services will go away and I can not risk that.
I never saw him on meth, but am sure he used alcohol and pot to get through the lonesomeness of being a hobo. I would drive him downtown on occasion or to his camp out by the Coke plant when he could not talk someone out of a couch.
Last time I saw him, we was almost in a fight with a truly aggressive guy out in front of where my church feeds on Sunday’s. I was able to break things up and cool things down some. I could tell Steve was scared of the guy and maybe I was too.
That fella was upset, I imagine, before he got there. I assume, like many in our culture, he felt that as a man he was supposed to provide for his girlfriend. Well here he was, so very undignified and unmanly at a free feed so his girlfriend could cure her hunger.
Things were tense between those two as well, and she may have been purposely pushing his–your not a man– buttons for her own reasons. Any way, Steve was talking tough, but you could see he was backed down. Having backed down others and having been backed down myself, I know being backed down can bring up a whole bunch of shame.
I have used kindness as opposed to aggression for quite a while now in my life but especially out at the ROC. It defuses situations quicker and saves people there dignity. No fun be shouted or backed down in front of a bunch of other people. But after the asshole left, I was surprised about how much anger I was repressing. There is nothing wrong with his world view and a lot of guys like him are dying of strokes and heartaches because they lack meaningful work.
I drove Steve to his camp later that evening. Shame makes you disappear or want to awfully bad, and I could see that Steve was only half with me in the car. His usually chatty, witty self sat silent until he closed the car door on his way out.
Steve’s death notice was brief. Only that he had died at St. Joseph’s and that a local funeral parlor would be handling the services. A lot of hobo types pass quietly in jail or the hospital alone in their blues. So I am going to carry some grief for Steve for a while. I know little of his back story but he is a person that I cared about and who had much human dignity, despite what appearances might have said or what his shame may have told him.
Sometimes I want some kind of revenge on society, we are awfully rough with each other, and so many go unseen and unheard throughout their lives. However my revenge be that I treat others with kindness and recognize those we do not see.
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