the Trooper!

A couple Thursday's ago, I went to visit a homeless friend in Thorek Hospital. I call him the Trooper, because that is what he is. He is 77, and over the past few years he has experienced both hip and knee replacements, a heart attack, and most recently, a stroke. Through all this, he has remained very positive and has stayed extremely active.

It was early one Tuesday morning, and Felipe felt this strange sensation on the right side of his head. Suddenly he found himself unable to see. He was quietly stuck upstairs, in our homeless shelter completely and utterly blind. All the residents at CCO love and know Felipe, so as he made contact with a couple other residents and gained a little blurry vision, they directed him to Sandy, who willingly drove him to a local Emergency Room. There he remained.

Admittedly, it took me over a week to go visit my elderly buddy. I felt guilty, so on the hottest day in years (101F), I walked down to Thorek hospital and was immediately denied the right to visit; it was well before visiting hours. I explained I was his case-manager and the young receptionist willingly allowed me to venture up to the 5th floor. Over the years of visiting the sick, I've found that by actually going into the hospitals, doors open and answers are found.

Quickly, I found out that his blindness was caused by a stroke. They had to cut into the right side of his neck to unblock the blockage. Everything was blurry and he was feeling weak.

As I entered the room, Felipe started joyfully rambling on about many things. He is a remarkable man; despite being homeless, rejected, taken advantage of and possessing a long list of health concerns, he almost always has peaceful positive disposition. That is why I call him The Trooper!

The hospital social worker came into his room. She introduced herself, her job was to make sure Felipe had a place to go upon release, so we all started talking; I know Felipe's story very well; I know why he is homeless, why he doesn't live with his housed wife, why he can't afford a place of his own, yet I also know he gets enough income to be self-sufficient. I know his horrible dilemma and how he is a victim, constantly being taken advantage of. 

Despite all this; I know Felipe is happy and content. Despite wanting to raise my fist and march to the "powers that be" and cry "Injustice!", Felipe calmly enjoys his life and murmurs "chill out brother, it's all good, let's not start a commotion, let me relax in my old age, I'm fine", causing me to marvel at this saint. 

Felipe looks at the young lady and tells her with all sincerity, "ma'am, let me tell you this. There isn't a place in this world I'd rather be. I love the people there. I love all the staff, they are good Christian people. I feel loved. I feel wanted. It's where I wanna be." 

She smiles at Felipe and asks me. "Now, where is he staying? Where and what is this great place he calls home?" I respond, "Cornerstone Community Outreach; a homeless shelter, located a little north of here." 

This realization causes a wave of confusion to spread over her face. I explain some of the awkwardness and hassle of his daily life; how he lives in a room with 4 other elderly men, how he needs to climb up 4 flights of stairs with his extremely bad hip and knees and how he needs to travel to the other of the city for physical therapy every day. I explain how we've traveled many roads in search of housing, but the obstacles are great and difficult. At the end of painting his daily picture, her face has now transformed from just confusion into utter confusion. She was trying to comprehend how a 77 year old man could enjoy and feel content living in a homeless shelter.

She questions Felipe, "No other place? How about a nursing home? How about living with your wife? How about a place with a working elevator? How about a place you can choose your own food?"

Felipe looks at her and says, "Ma'am, let me tell you something! I'd rather spend the rest of my life there at the shelter, than spend 2 minutes with my wife in our house!" 

We laugh, we know he's serious, the social worker looks at me shrugging her shoulders and I say to her, "it's a long story, but he means it." 

"I guess he really likes your place and he'll be heading back there." she says satisfied that he'll be alright. She also was able to get a glimpse of the wonderful power and beauty of community, fellowship, friendship and love that surrounded this sick old guy. Some of the homeless stereotypes were squashed that day and Jesus was glorified.
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