We are so BLESSED to have our guest Blogger Kathy N.Norris working with us in Hearts and on our blog page!!!
His Name is Jerry
By: Kathy Norris
July 9, 2018
He struggled to walk, and the hot blistering sun didn’t make it any easier for him, especially when carrying his bulky backpack on his shoulders. His steps were kind of slow and short because of dragging his right foot along, and getting around that way had worn his shoe down badly on one side.
His gait and the backpack are what caught my attention. I have learned in the past year that when you see a pitiful looking person carrying a backpack that’s obviously packed full that they are likely homeless. I looked back at him through my rear-view mirror as I drove past him, and at first wondered if he was high on drugs staggering around.
I just couldn’t drive on by him and go on my merry way home with a good conscious. I turned around a few yards past him at an old store building and headed back to a store that he would soon be approaching. I sat there and waited so I could look at him more, to form my opinion of what was going on with him…. you know, being pious and judgmental as we all tend to be at times. He turned and walked toward the store and I pulled up to him and asked if I could do anything for him… if I could buy him something to drink and eat in the store. Hot with visible sweat and out of breath, he shook his head yes and motioned that he couldn’t speak.
I told him to go on in the store and pick out what he wanted, and I would buy it for him. I parked and when I walked into the store he had gone into the restroom. When he came out I told him again to get whatever he wanted. He put his backpack down on a seat in a booth, got two Dr. Peppers, sat them down, and then went to look at their hot cooked food. He pointed the cashier to a corn dog, it was the only one left. I walked over and saw some chicken fingers and asked if he wanted some of them. He shook his head yes. I told him to sit down and eat and introduced myself by first name only. He smiled and took his expired driver’s license from his pocket to show me his name… Jerry. It had a Cullman address, which I didn’t even look at, only the “Cullman” part of it. I asked him how long he hadn’t been able to speak and he held up three fingers, then five. I asked, 35 years? He nodded his head yes. He then motioned to his throat and I thought he meant that he had once had a trachea and it damaged his voice. I asked him that and he shook his head no. He motioned from his throat, down his right side, all the way to his foot. I still didn’t get it, but I said, “Oh my goodness, I’m sorry”, or something like that, that is a standard reply of mine.
I asked how long he had been walking that day, and his raspy whispered response was “a long time”. I asked where he was headed. He motioned with his arm and hand pointing the directions. Of course, I couldn’t tell what he meant. I told him I was going to see if I could find someone to take him where he needed to go. All the while he only shook his head in response. I so wanted to help him but I couldn’t think of any male to come drive him. I was talking to the cashier the entire time too, who is my neighbor. In my heart I knew it wouldn’t be safe for me, as a lone female, to load him up in my car to take him anywhere. I needed a confirmation of my decision by discretely asking my cashier neighbor what he thought. He said that he looked pretty rough and he didn’t think it was a good idea. I told him I knew he was right, and joked that if I did take him by myself that he might be the last one that saw me alive. Seriously, not a joking matter though! It’s a true fact, as we all know, women shouldn’t do things like this alone… very dangerous… but I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied until I got a ride for him!
I called my granddaughter, Whitney Turner, and asked if she was home. Thankfully she was, and her boyfriend was with her, which was only five miles away! I asked if they would come so we could take him were he needed to go and they were all up for it. Jerry sat in the front with Whitney’s boyfriend to motion which way to go. We ended up at the Jet Pep on the south end of Cullman. I was shocked because I was expecting to take him to a house somewhere. He expressed a soft “Thank You” and got out. I told him to be safe, and “God bless you”. He walked to the side of the store and just stood there as we drove away. We thought maybe he was waiting for someone to come get him. I told Whitney’s boyfriend to drive across the road and we would watch him for a bit. He started walking again… on a sidewalk past the store, on down the sidewalk to an intersection, crossed the road, and continued on. We drove past him and parked. He slowly walked that sidewalk and then turned into the entrance to Heritage Park. Once again we thought maybe he was meeting someone. We backtracked and turned into the road he was on, coming in the opposite side. When we got to where we would have been able to see him walking, he was gone, totally not there anymore, just vanished. We wondered if someone had picked him up that fast, but we all three decided he must have gone up the little incline into the woods. He had to have. As we drove by looking into the sparse woods, I made the comment that you could see through those woods and if he had a tent there it couldn’t be hidden very well at all. It’s not deep woods. Whitney then said that he didn’t necessarily have to have a tent, that maybe he was just there… on the ground… which is true. We discussed why he didn’t have us take him a little bit further. We could have saved him a few steps. None of us had any answers, other than that he didn’t want us to see where he was going. Maybe we shouldn’t have spied on Jerry, but we did, no denying that fact. I will just pray for him, that’s all I can do at this point. Jerry had instantly become one of the “invisible people” that Larry speaks of. He had vanished back into the woods to only come back out again when necessary.
When Larry and Angie minister to our friends on Wednesday evenings with a home cooked meal from Larry’s kitchen, they come walking out of their private shelters, their “homes” among the trees. When they post pictures on FB of them walking back into the woods, some carrying their plates of food, oh how humbling that scene is to me. It really gets to me. These precious souls are somebody…. they matter, they matter to God… they have names… just like you and me. There might be some “Jerry’s” among them, or some “Larry’s”, “Angie’s and “Kathy’s”. They all reverently bow their heads when the meal is blessed in prayer, they eat their delicious and healthy meals that they are so thankful for, they express their thankfulness, they enjoy the fellowship with Larry, Angie, and the other homeless friends … then they walk back into the unknown world of our society’s “invisible people”… into the woods from which they came.
The Forgotten Shall Be Forgotten No More