Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Altruistic Moments

What inspires anyone to do something for someone else? To get something eventually from them? Guilt? Love? Obligation?

Well, today, I had an unusual series of "acts of kindness".  First, I was walking briskly out of St. Vincent hospital, bracing myself for a blast from the cold, when I saw a guy at the door with a back pack and bedroll on his back; the hood pulled over his head blocked his face; he was moments away from facing the cold himself.  I had already walked outside a few steps before I turned around and walked up to him and said, "Hey man, you got a place to stay tonight?"
"Yeah..." a brief pause..."but could you give me a lift to the motel?"


As we made our way to my car, the new route became stop by St. E's (local homeless shelter) for him to pick up his mail (he'd stayed his 30 nights there); and drive him down to the Motel 6.  Since St. E's he'd stayed in the interfaith overflow shelter a few nights before, but thought he picked something up there. He coughed several time during the ride..hope I don't pick something up.

His story is the one told too often.  Lost his wife and home to alcohol.  Been on the streets for 7 years, between Santa Fe and Albuqueque.  He was "down" in Santa Fe for the holidays...more to distract him from the pain of being alone during this time of year.   He was used to life on the street, and claimed to make a decent living "flying signs" that read "Need Help, God Bless."
"What's the most anyone's ever given you?" I asked.
"50 bucks"
 Wow. The day before he'd made enough to stay for 3 nights at the Motel 6 (37.99 a night).

I dropped Ken off.
It was getting dark, and the roads were icing over.  I made my way toward Cerrillos.  A woman was attempting to push a small pick-up with rear wheel drive out onto the busy street.  A man was driving, flooring the gas, while the wheel wore bald and she pathetically attempted to push.
I got out, "Need a hand?"
"Mande", she said.
"Los puedo ayudar?"  
I got behind the vehicle but was worthless in the ice.  We both were just slipping as the wheels spun.
We stood on top of the vehicle to try and weigh it down--No luck.
Eventually, he backed up, nearly sliding into my car that was parked behind his.
I backed my car up, and went again to push, and he gained momentum, made it over the dip that he'd been stuck in. He pulled barely out into Cerrillos, stopped his car for the woman to get in...cars were coming quickly toward them, but somehow he managed to cross three lanes into a turn lane after she jumped in.   "Adios", I whispered as they pulled away.

I usually don't do this kind of stuff anymore.  Not sure why, maybe I've become oblivious now that I've got Ruby Gene at home.

But this evening was different.  I think it's because of James (Randy) Campbell.  He was the reason I was leaving the hospital in the first place. He's been battling colon cancer, going through radiation treatment, and after his treatment yesterday, he was rushed to ER because he had blockage in his intestines.
When I heard the he was in the hospital, I called him--he could barely speak.  I went to see him and he was weak and frail.  We prayed together, he was in a lot of pain and experiencing nausea.  He hadn't eaten in two days, and was still vomiting....

His gracious warm spirit was still contagious even in his condition.  I don't think he's dying, but we mentioned it.  I'd already had a member of my church, Alice Martinez, die of block bowels earlier this year, so I wasn't going to dismiss it.  I confronted the potential reality of losing someone I admire so much, who I was just coming into relationship with; he's been in Las Vegas, NM for about 2 years now.  And there he was, alone, a single man with no family around, and a church community that was snowed in, but maybe that was good since he was so weak it would have taken a lot of energy to have visitors.  I felt like his brother.

As I said, I think it was his kind spirit that inspired me not to just walk by the stranger, but to stop and see if I could lend a hand....
I think of Randy's frail hand in mine as we prayed--I prayed that the God we proclaim to have healed many week in and week out from the pulpit and in visitations would heal Randy--I ask God to heal Randy, even now.

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