I am revisiting Howard for those of my new friends who may enjoy meeting Howard....another person gone but not forgotten. Howard was one of the many people I met and worked with at a drop-in for the homeless....The many lessons I was privileged to learn from so many has stood the test of time and bettered my own life in so many ways.
I would like to tell you about Howard, another one of God's beautiful creations. Howard was around 30 years old and had been coming to the drop-in for around 5 years. Under all the crazy long reddish brown matted hair, the fringed suede coat, the dirty ripped jeans , there was this very handsome young man. I mean drop dead , movie star looks. I'm not sure if others could see past the exterior and see his beauty or not. Looking into his dark blue eyes was a journey in itself.
Howard had paranoid schizophrenia. One of the ways this would manifest itself was interesting to me. I told you about the loan program before, when I told you about Mary. Howard was a regular user of the program and the first time I filled out his info to give him the loan was eye-opening for me. Everything proceeded normally until I actually went to give him the money. I put my hand out and said "here you go Howard". He just looked at me... He wouldn't take the money... he wouldn't even touch it. He was frightened of it. You could read it in his eyes. I'm thinking to myself "now what?" Well, I am the kind of person that usually precedes with life using my instinct or gut feeling. Most of the time it is fairly accurate. Being as I could sense his fear, I asked him, "hey buddy what's up? is there a problem with the money?" Howard told me he had to check out the money totally before he could touch it. I said okay, tell me how and what we need to do. He tells me to hold the money close to him so he can read the code on it... but don't touch him with it . This job made me learn patience. He sat looking at the money for around 10 minutes, and then finally says to me, " okay I can take it now, the code is not evil". Simple as that, he was content and happy to get the money.
Another thing that Howard needed to do was make certain actions, which took around 5 minutes, before he could go through a door. There again he was chasing away his demons. He did this to feel safe. He needed to do this, in his mind anyway. I was in the other room closing up for the day, and we had a man helping with cleaning that particular night. All of a sudden I hear this yelling, screaming, and obviously some things are flying in the other room. It sounded like a table had been knocked over. When I go in there I see Howard holding his head and yelling at the top of his lungs. He was like frozen in his space... not able to move. This guy is trying to push him out the door. I told him to let go of him and let me handle it. I get Howard to focus on me, and am talking him back to reality. I tell Howard "clear away the space Howard so you can go safely out the door." This guy is just standing there looking at us as if we are both in need of help. Howard does his ritual and leaves with a smile on his face. There again, simple, no big deal really.
I said before that I had learned so many "life lessons" working there. The lessons in this are many. First, have some patience and things usually work out. Second, take the time to really see someone, slow down and see them with your heart and not just your eyes. Third, we all need to feel safe.
Copyright © 2012 Barbara MacDonald