Written by John R.
There he was, the old man with the wire rim glasses and the walker. His thin, hunched frame shuffling along. I recognized that face. It was etched on my mind.
It was 12 years ago and I was a new employee at the DI. I had been told that he was barred but I had never met him before. I had been told to watch for since he always had a knife but I had never seen it. Then there he standing tall, wearing new cowboy boots & hat that gleamed in the morning sun silhouetted against the open doors behind him. I asked him his name, and he would not tell me. Something twigged in my mind and I asked him if he was Fred (not his real name) and he did not deny it. I asked him to leave, and he refused and watching me with his legs planted firmly in a confident stance. He held something behind his back and I asked him what it was not approaching him. He laughed and refused to tell me any thing. I asked him if it was a knife and he suggested that I come and find out. My co-worker went to call the police as Fred and myself continued to face off in the front entry of our old building. When my co-worker came back he said the police were on their way, at which point Fred showed me the knife he had been holding behind his back. He then left before the police could come.
That was the first time I met Fred, the second time was a few weeks later at the end of the laneway where he had been selling drugs behind the dumpster. It played out almost the same way except that he showed me his knife as he was leaving but did not wait for the police to be called.
That was 12 years ago, and today when I saw him, I saw a 52 year old man who looked to be in his 90’s. I know that the streets are hard on a person but I was shocked at how the last 10 years have taken their toll on Fred. I wondered if I should go and talk to him about old times, and decided not to, at least not yet. I hope to be able to do this someday, but for now I am glad that he is safe and out of the cold.
His bar has been lifted and he is now coming back to us time for food, shelter and a safe place from the harsh reality of life on the streets. I do not know his story, only the small part that I played in it. But the history doesn't matter. Today he is a human in need of compassion, forgiveness and help and that is what we at the DI are here to do.
Written by: John R