Tuesday, August 11, 2009


A few weeks back I had an encounter that makes you think that God put you there for a purpose. Lately things happen like that in my life, and I see the hands of God orchestrated so perfectly, even while I am busy doing my own thing, only partially paying attention to what sort of picture he is painting in my life.

I woke up early one Saturday with all the intentions of going down in to the city to take some photos. I don't like the city, or the crowds they bring, but I felt like I needed to go in and check out the places downtown to see what kind of photos I could take that aren't revolving around the country and the animals.

I am very partial to the park we have downtown, and all the beauty it has in it. I never used to be, but the more I look at it and take photos of it, the more beautiful it becomes. I had been in the park about three hours that Saturday, and was getting ready to take a walk to somewhere else, on my way to cross the street from the park to the city streets to go observe other things.

On my way to the crosswalk area I noticed a man sitting in the grass under a tree. Not unusual, since the park is a home to many homeless, and this situation seemed no different than any other, except for this particular man had what looked like all of his belongings with him. When I say that, I mean all the belongings that might come out of someone who had a permanent residence in a room somewhere. (TV, clothes, personal belongings, a walker, wall hangings etc.)

No one seemed to notice how unusual this was and everyone was walking past him as if he was just another homeless man on the street. The problem was, the tree he was sitting under was on the side of the road right next to the busy street, and among all the other unusual things, it just didn't seem normal, or safe.

I walked up to the man and as he spoke to me, I decided to let a conversation start to see what was going on. He invited me to sit down and chat with him, as if no one else really takes the time to do that, and he would welcome somebody paying attention to him, so I sat down with my camera and started listening to the gentleman talk.

He was a story teller, and proceeded for the next hour and a half or so, to tell me stories of his life. He was a Vietnam veteran who had what I would consider a very hard life. Some of it sounded like he enjoyed portions of it, as any one does when they are young and full of life, but many of the stories took turns that weren't real inviting. One of the things I noticed as he told his stories was the struggle he was having to tell them. He would start, and then forget what he was talking about, and would ask me to "ask a question" so that he could remember where it was he left off. That was one of the things, among everything else, that got me to thinking that he really wasn't supposed to be here, but I couldn't figure out where it was he was supposed to be. My first thought was "dementia" because he could tell the stories, he just couldn't keep them all in line.

Some of the stories talked about his life in Montana where I'm from, so based on that, I paid more attention to the stories he was telling in regards to that interest, to see if I could get something out of him that told me he had family and a life elsewhere. When I reached a point of figuring out a little bit more, I asked him if he remembered his sister's phone number, which he did. Then I asked him what her name was and I wrote the information down and then told him I needed to get going, because I was wanting to go take photos elsewhere.

Before I left though, I tried to get a knife to help him cut the apples that he had with him so that he could eat something, and then decided that he needed more than just apples to eat, so I asked him if he was hungry and would like a hot dog. He was very eager with that idea, so I went and got him a hot dog to eat. He was very proud of being a "veteran" so he let me take some pictures of him and his flag, and the "hot dog" which he was very excited about having at that moment.

Once we got past that point, I made a point of needing to go, so that I could go make a call to see if his family would know what was going on with him, and why he was down in the park with all of his stuff. I called his sister and no one picked up so I started to leave a message, which must have gotten the sisters attention, because once she heard the story, she immediately grabbed the phone. Her reception wasn't what I thought it would be, but none the less, it was someone who knew him and could hopefully help remove him from this situation. (I was really worried about the "street savvy" homeless, who might take his stuff or hurt him, for no other reason than to do just that and nothing more.) I explained to her who I was and why I was calling her, but her reception was more or less, "what is he up to now", and "he must not be on his "medication"", to be out and about like that. She said he got in lots of trouble when he wasn't on his "med's" and has been in and out of problems and hospitals for years. That didn't surprise me, because a lot of Vietnam Vet's are in that same boat, and he seemed no different. However, I told her he hadn't been a problem and that we were having a wonderful time chatting, I just didn't think it was safe to leave him out on the street like this, especially when it could get dangerous as the hours move on from daytime to night, and I didn't want to see him down there any longer than possible.

As I talked to his sister, I asked her where exactly in Montana did she live, as the town didn't ring a bell to me. I told her I have family that lives all over the state, and that I was from there also. She asked me where my family lives, and when I told her where my mom and her husband live, she immediately responded that she knew my mom's husband. In an area where everyone farms or ranches, you know a lot of the people who live in the towns around you, and this just happened to be the case. She lives on a ranch about 40 miles from the town my mom lives in and knows Morris via the work he does. This is where the statement "it's a small world" comes into play.
Once we got the small talk out of the way, she said she would contact the nursing home where he lives to see if one of the people could come down there and get him. She at least understood the urgency of making sure he didn't stay out there any longer than he had too. Besides all the basic problems this guy was running into, the temperature outside was up above 100 and even I was having a hard time being out in the sun. However, I didn't want to walk away until I was sure someone would take care of him and get him back to where he belonged.
I waited until she called me back to find out what was going on. She said his case worker from the home would be down shortly to pick him up and take him back there. But she also noted that he may not cooperate because he is not taking his medication and doesn't want to go back there. She said he had been off his med's for about 3 weeks now, and they may have to take him back to the mental hospital if he didn't cooperate.
I didn't want to see this go any direction that it didn't have to, because at this point, he was being farely reasonable, and was just hanging out enjoying the sun and the freedom. However, I knew it wouldn't stay that way, so I watched him from a distance, while watching for the case worker, and also hoping that a police car would drive by so that maybe we could make this easier than I knew it would turn out.
I went back over to him to check on him and realized he was in need of water and neither of us had anything to put some into. He was to sick to walk to the water fountain across the way, so I resorted back to seeing if I could find enough change to buy him some water, since I spent most of it on the hot dog. I found just enough to buy a bottle of water, which in the park, isn't cheap, and I brought it back to him. He was extremely gracious, and I just hoped it would hold out long enough to get someone here to pick him up.
Finally a van parked across the street and I could see that this lady was heading right for him. She had been through this before and knew what to expect, however, I hadn't, and was unaware of the changes that would happen as soon as he saw her. Immediately he started cussing and yelling at her and telling her in all kinds of ways that he didn't want her around him and that he wasn't going to go back to the home. As she was trying to figure it out, I also tried talking to him, but now that I was on the enemies side, I was also the enemy, and he was telling me to go away also.
At this point, he had put his mind into gear, and was going to leave, whether we wanted him to or not. He got up, got his walker, and headed off towards the area where the children were running through the water. That scared me, because either of them could get hurt, and I didn't want to see that happen. The case worker was trying to follow him and yet still trying to pay attention to all his stuff. I tried to let her know I would take care of it, just make sure he didn't get hurt, because the children were running everywhere, and just beyond them was the steps down to the river.
She decided it was time to bring in help, and she called the cops to come in and help her. It was not what I had wanted to see, as I was afraid they would just put him in jail for the night, and that wasn't any better than letting him stay out in the park, to me it was worse than that park. I had hoped it wouldn't come to this, but at this point, there was no choice. I had been out here for hours at this point, and I know I was getting tired as well as dealing with too much heat.
Soon several patrol cars showed up and off these officers went to round this guy up. Mean while, I tried to put all of his stuff together in such a manner that it didn't get taken or lost or whatever; and then I just stood there next to his stuff and waited. I'm sure it looked funny seeing this lady who is well dressed, with my camera and gear, guarding this homeless man's stuff.
About 15 minutes or so later, the cops pulled up in there cars and this man was in the back of one of the patrol cars. It must have gone better than expected as he didn't seem out of control or anything; I think he just resolved to being taken back where he started. The good thing was that they told me they were transporting him up to one of the hospitals in town and not to the jail. Thank goodness, because he wasn't doing anything wrong, he just needed someone to help him. The case worker helped me pack up his stuff and the officers helped load it up in her van so she could head back.
I talked to them just enough to let them know where I worked, that I knew their faces from up there, and that I was glad this ended the way it did. They handled it the way I wish all cases could be handled; quickly with no one getting hurt, or having to go to jail. It had a much better ending than I had expected which I was very grateful for. I do wish the sister had been more interested in what was happening, but I know that families go through things like this, and we don't always see the happy endings we want to see. No matter what, I know it had a better ending, from my view anyways, and I was glad he didn't end up staying out on the streets.
Why the home didn't come looking for him as soon as he told them he was leaving and walked out the door, I don't know. But you think it would have been easier to have stopped him in the beginning, instead of letting it get this far. The case worker said they would have come looking for him by evening time, but to me, that would have been to late. I doubt he would have handled the heat that late into the day, and it could have had a much worse ending. The man had dementia, among the many other mental illnesses he had, and to me, why would you let someone leave the building when your dealing with those sort of issues. Some questions you just don't want to know the answers to. It's a good thing he didn't go any further than he did, considering how far he walked with all of his stuff, being in the condition that he was in to begin with, I was amazed he got that far with out getting hurt. Either way, someone was watching out for him, because I knew as soon as I saw him that something was out of sorts, and I think of how many people walked right around him and didn't even notice anything out of place.
There are definitely days when God puts you in just the right place at just the right time, and then waits to see how you will respond................. He is an almighty God!!!!


Joseph Pulikotil said...

Hi Katrena:)

This an amazing encounter and you narrated the entire incident so beautifully.

You sound like the good Samaritan in the Bible. In the Bible also it says that many people walked up and down but no one stopped to help except the good Samaritan. The thing is people don’t want to get involved in problems even if it mean helping some one in distress. It took so many hours for you to see an happy ending. Who will be ready to invest so much time for a total stranger suffering from dementia?

This incident also brings to my mind in many families when someone is mentally sick they would rather like to put him in a mental asylum than taking care of him at home. They fear violence and unruly behavior. There are cases in Indian mental asylums where even when patients are fully cured they are not taken home back. The hospital people are bribed to keep the patient in the hospital as long as possible even for years and years.

You did a wonderful thing by taking so much trouble, time and money to see that man in safe hands. I agree God put you there to probably test you and see whether you are a good Samaritan or not. And you responded beautifully. I am sure HE will be very pleased with you.

From what I read of you earlier, I find you have become more bold, ready to go and talk to strangers and do whatever possible to help them. This is an amazing transformation in you.

I would say that your city visit became a very memorable one and your photos of the man are excellent. He looks dashing and performing for you so wonderfully. Although he is enthusiastic, he looks a bit tired probably due to the heat.

I was a bit surprised that his sister or his children did not come to take him.

Many,many thanks for sharing this interesting story and I am amazed to see how God works wonders through kind and generous people like you.

God bless you Kat:)

Joseph Pulikotil said...

Hi Katrena:)

I am going to use your interesting comment in my blog as my next post.

Best wishes:)

Joseph Pulikotil said...

Hi Katrena:)

Many, many thanks for your lovely comments of motivation and encouragement.

Have a beautiful day Kat:)