Two of my clients were in the local hospital today, so I went to visit them.....
Eliud came with me to visit my 85 year old buddy, Julio. They're both homeless, and live on the same floor at the shelter. With amazing compassion, he's been Julio's helper in so many different ways, with things like helping him get his meds, translating for him, as he's unable speak English and he frequently takes him to appointments. They also play a lot of dominoes together!
As we wander into his room, he's laying in his bed, oblivious to everything in the outside world. When he notices us, Julio is immediately energized. He may be 85, but he responds like an excited kid, quickly shuffling up in his bed, grinning from ear to ear and offering his tiny hand to shake, greeting us with "Hola, como estas".
He indicates that he's about to get checked out, so we go ask the nurse to make sure. Upon return, we find him rapidly changing into his street clothes. He's ready to go, even if he still has the little sticky patches from his tests still stuck on his chest. Eliud helps him by lifting up his shirt and pulls them all off. We get the discharge instructions and it's time to go! He's happy to return to his familiar spot at CCO.
The nurses love this elderly tiny homeless man, with his big smile and gentle personality. In Spanish, he tells the Jamaican nurse that we're his best friends and how lucky and happy he is. He gives her a kiss on the cheek and Eliud translates a little flirtatious comment about how pretty she is. She's grins and blushes; I'm sure he made her day. He walks down the aisle to the elevator, and Julio shakes all the doctors and nurses hands; they all adore him and are going to miss him, yet glad he's healthy enough to leave their facility!
Downstairs, Julio thanks me profusely for coming and Eliud compassionately gives me a small bottle of sanitizing lotion, because I "shake so many people's hands". We parted ways, Eliud and Julio started wandering back to the shelter and I head up to 6th floor to visit Lenny, another homeless client.
I'd been told by someone else on staff that Lenny was here; I know Julio well, but I'm unsure who Lenny is or what he looks like, but I nervously venture up to see him anyway! It's a little harder visiting someone I don't know.
As we chat, I am once again astounded by what I hear and am reminded about the importance of visiting people in hospitals. I am once again challenged by the words of Jesus, encouraging us to "take the risk" by visiting "the least of these" in places that aren't glamorous and safe; like hospitals, nursing homes and jails! Jesus plainly told those listening that he is in these places, because as "you've done it unto the least of these, you've done it unto me!" "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance" he lovingly said to the sheep who had visited him as he lay sick!
What astounded me was the words Lenny spoke. He's newly homeless, he had lived in some suburban woods for a brief period of time until he recently transitioned to our shelter. I ask him some of his medical history and he tells me of brief hospitalizations of pneumonia and other things.
This tough "biker looking dude", seemed to get a little emotional and was barely holding back the tears. Lenny calmly tells me, "I cannot believe how many people have come to visit me. I've had more people from the shelter come see me in one day here, than in the whole week I was in the other hospital, when I was housed. None of my 'so called' friends came to visit me. They didn't care about me. Your staff and other homeless clients really care about me. That blows my mind. Thank you!"
I smile! It's the side of homelessness, people don't often see or know! It's beautiful. It's community! It's an honor to be part of! Love flows in our homeless community. It's beautiful. Lenny feels and loves it, even in his hospital bed!
It was time for me to go. I shake his hand and he thanks me profusely for coming. He thanks me for what Cornerstone does. His world had been rocked. His hospital bed had been mysteriously filled with an unusual hope!
To read a story about Julio and his 85th birthday party at the shelter, connect to this link: "they made me feel like a king!"