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• What's This Life For?
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• Unexpected
• Just a Dog's Day
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• Fear or Comfort?
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    • Darren and the Circus
• The Surreality of It All
• Voice of God
• Sound of Silence
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• Sicilian Sculptor

• Sans People
• Digital Detox
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coming up...
• Just a Barista
• Yo! Buddy!
• Vault
• An Artist's Signature
• Azure
• Tears in the Fabric
• Voice of God II

What's This Life For? (12/01/20)

A couple friends and I were walking into our local store to get groceries, and off to the side of the door was a guy sitting on the ground, not moving, dressed in rags and really dirty, with a cup in front of him and a scribbled sign saying “please help.”

We watched as people walked by and glanced down and continued walking, or occasionally somebody would drop a few coins in his cup. The guy never moved.

We were concerned because it was freezing outside, 40s in SoCal, and he was sitting on the ground, though I suppose the ground was warmer than the breeze that was blowing around.

After a few minutes, I walked up and though not sure what I was going to do or say, just simply asked the guy what he really needed, other than a few coins in the cup.

As he slowly looked up at me with a blank look on his face, I realized my question was really sort of lame - I knew what he really needed. I felt bad, so rephrased my question “what can we do to help you?” I knew he needed something to eat, a warm place to stay, clean clothes and a hot shower, for us, that was all easy stuff to provide.

But what did he need from us to get to that point. He still looked at me sort of lost and didn’t say a word. OK, if you won’t talk, then I will.

I told him what I thought he needed, and that we could provide that to him, but he would have the ultimate say in what we could do for him. Sure, we could hand him a couple hundred dollars, but was that really going to be what mattered?

“My name is Greg” were the first words we got from him, as he started to stand up. “I would really appreciate the help.”

And though it really shouldn’t matter, in order to know what we were dealing with, I asked about drug and alcohol issues. I got the same answer I had heard before from another friend, Greg told me he didn’t have enough money to eat, there was no money for drugs or alcohol. Again, I felt a little stupid having asked, but I needed to know.

By now Greg was standing, but not quite upright. Sitting in the cold had really done a number on his frame and he moved really slowly with us towards our vehicle.

I told him our house was only a few miles away and we’d have him there shortly, and told him he could have free run of what was in the kitchen and refrigerator to eat.

He said he really just wanted something basic, like rice or pasta, bread, and some veggies. He said that because he ate so infrequently and whatever was found or available, he got sick regularly from what he called ‘decent’ food, so just something simple.

OK, once again, that is something we can do easily.

The ride to the house was quick, and I think I did all the talking. At one point, he looked up and simply said ‘thank you.” As I looked at him, he appeared to be in his early 20s, but a very rough early 20s. I’d guessed right when he said he had just turned 25.

As we pulled into the driveway, I realized I had the heater in the car blasting at full heat, and apologized for it being so warm. Again, after I said what I said I felt a bit stupid, but Greg was gracious in telling us it was the best thing he’d felt in quite a long time.

I didn’t want to barrage him with questions, so just let him know that part of helping out was letting him talk, so if and when he was ready, feel free to just let go. We weren’t there to be asking a ton of questions he may have not want to answer. Again, all we got was a thank you.

We got inside, took him down the hall to one of the bedrooms, pointed out where the bathroom and kitchen were, and had him take a seat at the desk as we went and prepped some food for him.

I brought him a bottle of Gatorade, thinking the electrolytes would be good for him. That was the first time I saw a glint of life in his eyes as he opened a bottle and downed the entire thing. He looked up shyly and asked if he could have a second bottle?

I was stunned, he was asking. Why on earth would he still be asking? Well, because whatever he had been through, he had still managed to maintain his manners.

Again, after telling him anything in the house he needed was there for him, we got a thank you. This time followed with “I really do appreciate you helping me. Though I was always thankful for the money people me, it really didn’t go a long way to me getting any better.”

That was an understatement.

We brought Greg a loaf of bread, cooked up a batch of minute rice, and steamed a bunch of veggies that had just been delivered. I asked him if he liked certain veggies, thinking that some people were not so keen on broccoli, or peppers or other veggies we lived on, and again, as soon as I said what I said I thought, damn Dave, stop with the stupid questions.

Well, I had said that out loud, and that got a smile from Greg. “Don’t apologize. It’s probably not everyday you bring home a stray dude from the streets. Anything you give me I appreciate.”

He proceeded to eat, but did not stuff himself like I expected. Again, didn’t think that through and figured out ‘before’ I asked he probably couldn’t stomach gorging on food at this point.

Not exactly knowing what to do next, I just let him know the room was his, pointed to the bathroom, and let him know that if he wanted, we could put his clothes in the laundry while he showered, that is if separating him from his clothes was OK.

I brought him some new shorts, socks, tshirts, sweater, and brought him a pair of sweat pants.

As I left, though again, I felt a little awkward, I needed to know, and asked if he had any mental or emotional challenges we needed to be concerned with. He surprised me when he told me yes, he did have some issues he had problems with, but nothing I needed to worry about for my safety or his.

Well, he still had his manners and his senses about him. He knew where I was going with the question without me having to ask in detail. I left it at that, and left him in his room letting him know we were just outside if he needed anything.

At that point, our black lab Slate had wandered into the room, walked right up to Greg, sat down, and put her head on his leg. He started petting her, and the immediate bond between the two didn’t go unnoticed. She had no fear of him, he had no fear of her. “She’s beautiful.”

Yes, she is.

“She knows I’m hurting.”

Yes, she does, and she’ll be there for you, just like she is always there for us, especially when we are hurting.

I left the room so he could do what he needed to do.

An hour or so later, Slate came jaunting out into the living room, followed closely behind by Greg. Wow, he cleaned up nicely. And again, since I tended to say stuff out loud, got a big smile and a chuckle from Greg.

He seemed to be walking better, standing straighter, and looking like he was feeling better. Slate had stayed with him the entire time to ensure Greg had been fine, and Slate knew she had done what she should. She strutted around the house for the next couple of hours like she had been responsible for Greg’s ‘rescue!’

Greg asked if he could get a bit more to eat, and was pointed to the kitchen.

As he walked into the kitchen, he ran his hands through his hair, which was now clean, but resembled a large mop, and asked us if we had a pair of scissors. Uhm, no, we have people for that. Hang on a bit and we’ll get our friend to come by and cut your hair like it should be. I remember my friend Darren had told me he kept scissors in his backpack to make sure his hair was always trimmed. I guess one does what one has to.

It was funny, as Greg settled down into one of our Lazyboy chairs, he started to answer the questions that had been at the back of my mind, and not spouted out loud, about who he was, and what happened to put him out on the streets.

But first he asked “what’s next?” I wasn’t exactly sure what he meant, but let him know that he was welcome to stay at the house as long as he wanted and as long as he needed. We told him about our friend Darren and how Darren too had been homeless in the area and was now, almost 6 years later, doing extremely well and was a welcome part of the family.

Ask any of the dogs!

In the days that followed, I realized what it must be like to have kids. So many new experiences, so many new stories to share, so much enthusiasm, interspersed with so much sorrow and sadness. Greg really had a rough couple of months out on the street, and the emotional and mental issues we were going to face with him were pretty challenging.

But he was going to prevail now that he had someplace to call home, and friends to help him get through it all.

We were sitting around in the gallery a week or so after we brought Greg into the fold, and the video for Creed’s “What’s This Life For” came on. I think we’ve figured that out!

Musical reference: What's This Life For, Creed

- - - - - - - - - - (updated 03/29/21)

Greg here! This story is Dave's version on me and bringing me into his group — and giving me a home. I am so grateful for everything this group of friends did for me, and continue to do for me. They don't like the attention, but I just need to say, again, thank you! I know you know how much it means to me, everything you have done.

But the primary purpose of this message is to everybody and anybody that reads this story. Throughout life we all take for granted many things - far too many things. A roof over our head, consistent and healthy food to eat, a hot shower - just the beginning of what many have to be grateful for and never even show any gratitude for them.

Far too many, not only in the United States, but around the world, go without the basics - shelter, food, hygene.

I remember vividly the first day I was brought off the street and into Dave's house. I was extremely weak from being out in the cold and not having eaten a healthy meal in months, the first thing Dave wanted me to do was get in the bathroom and take a shower. The feeling of that warm water on my body was beyond description.

It hurt too, because I had some open sores, rashes in places you never want rashes. But the overall feeling of being able to stand in that hot water for as long as I needed was beyond value. Now that is something I can do whenever needed, and something I definitely do not take for granted.

The first day I got to sit in the warm house, in a comfortable chair, able to eat whatever I wanted from the kitchen, was priceless. And that late afternoon on the first day, when I was able to crawl into a comfortable, warm bed, and cover myself with the softest blankets I'd ever seen, again the feeling was beyond description.

I woke up momentarily a few hours later to find a beautiful, black lab nestled along side of me. She woke up also, gave me a big dog kiss, and be both fell back to sleep. This was another feeling beyond description. I no longer was waking up to chase away the spiders, bugs and other varmants that were always present when sleeping on the street.

It has now been a little over 3 months now, I have a great job just down the street, have a great group of friends, and still all those things we should never take for granted — a beautiful place to live, all the food I could want (and the guys tend to be health nuts, so really healthy food), and the ability to take a shower when needed.

And then, one of the guys, won't mention Mike's name, got me a truck. He was really subversive about it, asked several times what kind of vehicle I would get when I could afford one. Then one morning, the guys woke me up early, said there was something I needed to see, and brought me down to look at this beautiful new truck, complete with a big bow on top! Mike handed me the keys, and again, a feeling I could not describe.

So, what's this life for? Savor what you do have, be thankful for those things around you that you may take for granted. Be nice — no, not just nice, but kind — to everyone and everything, people, animals, the planet. Stop obsessing over things that really are of no significance.

As the guys are always saying, "Being nice is a behavior, being kind is an action."

#homeless #creed #Greg #kind #kindness