I have cared for the seriously mentally ill and the homeless throughout my nursing career. I have seen vulnerability and hardship up close and personal. I have also observed amazing dignity and inner strength in these very same individuals.
No one signs on to be homeless. I have worked with lawyers, social workers and teachers who became homeless for a variety of physical, economic or social reasons. The ever growing number of young mothers with children with unstable housing situations is heartbreaking.
Poverty has a direct impact on health and stress. It is understandable, yet unconscionable, for seniors, veterans and young mothers to have to choose between food and medical treatment. To further complicate matters, many are either uninsured or underinsured.
I have met some remarkable people who touched my heart and taught me valuable life lessons.
I remember *Ava, who was 64 years of age, but I guessed her to be in her mid to late eighties. Living on the streets takes an unimaginable toll on one's physical condition and appearance.
As with the great majority of this population, Ava had multiple, untreated medical conditions. Similarly, she was downright hostile towards any 'nurse-types' - except me, because 'I struck her as funny'.
Ava ended up being a sweetheart, who taught me about the simplicity and sincerity of a decent person. She always remembered me with a genuine token of appreciation, a card, an unexpected treat for Aunt Baby, a pamphlet with inspirational quotes that she knew I would like, so much more... She always ended our visits with 'Drive safely. Do you know your way back home?' How could she have known I always got lost?
Ava told me she was happy she had found her daughter after all. I was honored to fill the bill for her for a very short while. Ava was the only client who ever told me she loved me.
I remember meeting *Clyde, 68 years of age, sitting on a park bench of Love Park. The name sounds quite beautiful. In some ways, Philadelphia is a loving place to be, in 'the City of Brotherly Love'. In other ways, it can be scary as hell.
Clyde lived a transient life. He slept mostly under a major interstate that I travelled daily to work by car. The sight of this hunched and huddled man with his life possessions packed in several plastic Hefty bags made morning mascara far less important in my estimation.
After a few months, Clyde allowed us to drive him back to our office. We were fortunate to have shower facilities for rare exceptions. It was probably safe to say that Clyde had not showered in months. His appearance and proud smile after that first shower made me uncharacteristically dash to the ladies room to regain composure.
I have been known to make little drum rolls on a desk or table, for no apparent reason. On a day Clyde was in the office waiting for the Podiatrist, I had some time to spend with Clyde in the treatment room, where he was sitting anxiously on the exam table . I could see my usual efforts at small talk were not working, Due to the luxury of a clean desk surface, I tentatively started a drum roll as I stood up to start acting like I was going to straighten the treatment cabinet.
As I glanced over, I saw Clyde was grinning and his hands were drumming on his lap. I said: " Hey, what's up with that?"
I immediately sat down again as Clyde opened up about his days on the road, when he was in his twenties. He had been a drummer in a blues band. He loved Muddy Waters, his favorite, rattling off so many other artists I could barely keep track. This man was into the blues! I began to feel like Barbara Walters performing an interview with someone famous at this point. He was astonishingly funny, charming and I remember Mom telling me that: "still waters run deep."
Clyde's life on the road was an ironic prelude to the journey of his life. Struggles with alcohol and months away from home at a time led to the disintegration of his marriage and ultimate life on the streets in a much different manner.
I learned not to assume anything after working with Clyde. While he had every reason to be bitter and disagreeable, he was always a consummate gentleman. Even after so many others hurt him along the way, he always took the time to show appreciation. The mere mention of music could light up his eyes and soul. Because of Clyde, I will always prefer Muddy Waters - nothing like it!
Muddy Waters: "Got My Mojo Working"
When I met *Joyce, she was 55 years old. With a childhood rife with physical and sexual abuse, she was fiercely distrustful of people in general.
I wrote the lessons learned from Joyce in a story called "When Compassion Replaces Fear" - which is part of Tales2Inspire ~ The Ruby Collection.
For a summary, please check out the YouTube video that Lois W. Stern developed for my story.
Joyce taught me to keep fighting for what I want - to do it fearlessly and with a compassionate heart Her example serves as a perpetual reminder that the efforts are worth it.
Sharing the happenings in Weeblyhood...
Sending wishes for resolution of the wildfires and the safety and comfort of Vicki Warner and her community in the BC.
Sending my thoughts, support and positive energy to Linda Bilyeu (Sunshine). Captain Dave's courageous legacy will live on with every purchase of your book: Letter to Cancer - Lessons Learned
Until next week, wishing you peace and hugs, mar
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