I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s one of those days. I have the kind of job where I can get mine handed to me regularly. It just sneaks in and sometimes is gentle and pulls at my heart. It reminds me to be careful. It sneaks up sometimes and it’s a little like a perspective whack with Styrofoam or something that squeaks loudly and says “Hello, are you paying attention here?” Sometimes, it’s hideously loud and, well, I don’t need alliteration for it, I hope.
Last night in my community news broke of the death of a homeless man. This man suffered from profound mental illness. Many people knew that. He wasn’t very welcome many places. I volunteered one summer at the Ashland Emergency Food Bank and was so surprised when he came in one of the mornings and the volunteer welcomed him and offered him anything. There wasn’t much he’d eat or could travel with. He had a small can opener and he took only two cans of food. They were his choices and off he went. I even remarked that day it was one of the few places John was welcome. It stuck with me.
Seven years ago, there was a terrible fire in our community and 11 houses were burned. The fire moved fast and jumped the freeway. Lives were forever changed. John was tried and found not guilty. There were lots of theories for why. That’s not what my blog is about. There were lots of stories written and there will be more now.
Last night though I received texts from a few folks saying that news broke John had died. Some people asked if I would attend a public gathering remembering him. Some sent links to articles. Some just wanted me to know. I read the stories and before reading the comments, I felt that gentle, sneaking up feeling. I read a comment or two and I felt the Styrofoam coming in for my head. My judgment came in on both sides. I’m just being honest here. I wondered who would be relieved John was gone and thankful that peace may find him now. Some were. I hope peace for him now. His life wasn’t easy for sure. And I wondered about those making those other comments on social media, like the one I read that read, “see ya.”
I know it’s human to have all these feelings and more. And I know we do this work together. That’s why we’re called UNITED…Way. We are united in this work. We don’t do it alone, not any of it. Thank you. And there’s always a Way. I’m grateful. Mental health remains a very tough issue in our communities. Just last week, Oregon achieved yet another worst in the country score on mental health. That race to bottom thing, we’ve got to stop winning. Let’s do this.