This is Timmy. I met him in front of a church, somewhere near 38th st. and Park Ave. I don’t have a clue what the church is called. I remembered this church from a photo I took a long time ago with a plastic toy 35mm camera. It was of a statue of Jesus with vines climbing dramatically up the wall behind it. The statue is behind bars that I can squeeze my shot through and I took the same exact shot I did last time. I looked at the preview of it on my LCD….and…it was really boring…why did I do that? I have no idea. But then as I’m standing there puzzled by myself, this guy calls out to me. “Hey you know you can help yourself right in.” I respond, “No I’m alright, I’m not too into it.”
He looks at the camera in my hand and says, “You want to take a picture of me?”
“Really? Actually I would love that, thank you!”
I shuffle through my pockets and fish out two dollars for him. He kindly accepts it and starts to explain to me that he is an Iraq Veteran. Standing up he reaches in his back pocket for his wallet and shows me this Veteran card of some sort. I don’t have a clue if it’s authentic but by the looks of the inside of his wallet it seems like his life might be a bit chaotic or maybe just not very organized. It was filled with numbers, notes, cards, scraps, pictures, but no money. He starts to explain to me that he recently was diagnosed with prostate cancer. The doctor also said that his liver can’t survive another drop of alcohol. A scar in his liver is in need of a biopsy and he can get that looked at if he can get up north to a different shelter. He needs $20 to move his stuff from his current shelter to the new one.
I saw an honest man but wasn’t sure. There’s no way of being sure. But I thought I saw an honest man. Why? I don’t know…. His clothes were clean and warm winter sportswear. He has a cellphone “they” gave him. (What organization “they” is, I have no idea) Maybe I saw that he is accepting help. That he is SEEKING help. That’s a bold step for people facing addiction to have to take. To face yourself and accept the fact that you are an addict and you need help.
I walk him to his shelter which is only blocks away. I hand him a twenty and a hug goodbye. He asks for my number and writes it down on a sliver of paper and shoves it into his wallet filled with more slivers of papers. ” My EBT will kick back in next week, so I’ll pay you back then.” Surprised I said, ” Sure, no problem!” I didn’t want to tell him to keep it. I wanted him to feel like a part of society. I wanted to give him the chance to prove himself.
Later that night I get a call from him. He tells me that he’s arrived and settled into this new shelter. I can hear his excitement. “I’m goin’ to see a doctor in the morning to start chemo and get them pills for the voices, ya know….those voices are somethin’ else. They give the same stuff to alzheimer’s folks.”
“Yeah Tim, we have to make sure not to listen to those voices when they say things. I’m glad you got an appointment quickly!”
He promises me that he will repay me with lunch in the future.
“I can never pass up a free meal.”
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