Rotting Feet

Yesterday, as the rain was thundering down, one of our security guards walked into the office with this middle-aged fella, who was completely and utterly soaked to the bone!

This guy recognizes me and calls me by name. His face seems familiar, but I couldn't recall his name or if he'd stayed with us before. Nervously, he kept saying "I'm sorry", as he politely and humbly asked me for a pair of shoes.

His question was bizarre, not because he asked for shoes, but because that's all requested. He was completely drenched. He didn't want dry socks, a shirt or pants. He was asking for one thing; a pair of shoes, size 12. 

His demeanor showed he didn't want to come in, he didn't want to ask for help, as he kept on quietly saying how sorry he was for bothering us and taking our time. For some reason, this fella was desperate, crying out for help and wanting us to notice something!

We tried to settle his nerves. We kept telling him that we're here to help him. The Security Officer had seen him limping, so we tried to get him to sit down and relax, but he apologized again and again, telling us he was too wet to sit on the plastic seat we offered. Eventually, we talked him into sitting down. Meanwhile, I had asked someone to run up to the Freestore to get this gentleman some shoes, socks and a change of clothes.

As we spoke, as we observed this poor guy hobbling around, and as I asked him a few very direct and pointed questions, we realized his needs were far deeper than just a pair of better fitting shoes. 

Since being evicted, this humble man had been sleeping in uninhabitable places outside, eating out of trashcans and roaming to and fro throughout the city. We watched him sit on the floor wincing in pain, as he returned from a quick trip to the bathroom. He could barely walk 30 steps. Despite wearing damp leather shoes, we could plainly see that his feet were swollen within them.

As he answered my questions about diabetes and his homeless history, we listened as he told us how bad his feet stunk and didn't know when was the last time took his shoes off. He told us it had been months; not weeks, months! He told us of the shooting pains, "like needles", that came up from the bottom of his feet. He told us, he didn't know what to expect, and that his painful swollen feet scared him.

We didn't see his feet, but they scared us too! What he'd just told us, terrified me. All I could think of was out-of-control diabetes and gangrene. I couldn't imagine the sight of rotting flesh we'd see, if he took off those shoes. I've smelt gangrene before, and I didn't want our lobby to become a victim to it. All I could imagine was, his poor feet were rotting in those socks, and the shoes were keeping the smell in! 

My coworker came downstairs with new shoes and a bag of clothes for him, but we couldn't let him just leave. I told him my fears, I told him what I thought was going on and I told him this was a matter of life or death. He believed me.

We called 911 and waited for the ambulance.  

Off he went, as suddenly as he came! We had set a plan to house and help him if the hospital released him during the night, but my immediate thoughts were he'd be hospitalized for a while. A day later, he hasn't returned, so it was obviously bad enough to keep him! 

As he disappeared, my thoughts and prayers went with this guy; would he still have 2 feet the next time I see him? 

As he disappeared, I wept and was angered by the neglect this man has suffered. He could remember my name, but seemed to lack the mental capabilities, along with social anxiety, to look after himself. 

As he disappeared, I was challenged to keep my eyes open, to see the weak and those suffering in my midst. I was challenged, once again, to not walk on by! 

As he disappeared, I thanked my staff for noticing his pain and caring for this humble man. They could have easily ignored him too, but they didn't, their eyes were open! Thankfully! 

As he disappeared, I also celebrated, as we had another opportunity for God to use us to bring life, hope and the Kingdom of God into Uptown! I do not say these words lightly: We may have saved somebody's life yesterday!


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