Sunday, January 13, 2008


**Now with more pimping! See below...**

I didn't expect the first person I served coffee to at the drop-in centre to be someone I already knew. My brain stalled, I figured he must be a volunteer, but a story someone told me recently involving a hairdresser and bipolar disorder niggled at my mind.

"Do you remember me?" he asks.

Yes, I do. He was the hairdresser on campus who did all kinds of wacky things to my friends' hair, and less wacky colours to mine. He was married with kids, and fun and charming. My one friend's hair changed every six weeks, each new style and colour more outrageous than the last. He asks what I've been up to in the last many years and I tell him. He notices my wedding ring and I tell him about my son. He is thrilled.

The question hangs between us, unspoken. What about you? Why are you here?

So he tells me. He had to have chemo for his liver and he had to stop working. He got sick, bipolar, and lost everything. Now he's fighting for his boy in court. All stated matter-of-factly, until he reached the part about his son.

"Oh, T. I'm so sorry."

He shrugs, a little uncomfortable with my sympathy? "Tough things happen. But yeah, chemo ruined my life." I am stunned as he walks away, reeling from the tenuousness of the threads that hold us to the dearest parts of our lives, how quickly it can all fall away. I suppose this is why I volunteered, but the sorrow pulls me down. I suppose nearly everyone here has a similar story. And yet there are jokes and silliness.

T and I talk a bit more here and there through the morning. I help serve ham, mashed potatoes, a mixture of canned peas and corn, salad, buns, and random goodies for dessert, whatever was donated. The people are nice, and funny, and I enjoy being part of it. And I couldn't help but scope out a few possible models.

I committed to only two hours a month, but I think I want to do more. I had worried that with things going on in our family, it would be too much of the same. But it's not the same. The people I served today are friendly and pretty appreciative of being served a hot meal in a safe place for less than a dollar, or, if they don't have any money, free.

But seeing T and how much he's lost knocked the wind out of me. I'm still catching my breath.


Edited to add: Voting is open for the Canadian Blog Awards, and I've been nominated for Best Photo/Art Blog. Please go vote for me. Apparently, voting goes in rounds, and you only get one vote per category per round. Voting for Round 1 ends January 21, 2008, so please go vote for me now (Write About Here, in case you forgot where you were.)


Suz said...

I was just listening to a radio program today that discussed how out of control medical costs and the lack of affordable insurance are leaving more people vunerable. Just hearing your story really brought the point home.

Kyla said...

Wow. Stories like these really make me think. It really does just take one good hit to force you over that line. We all think we are so safe from it, but in reality, it is just a few steps away.

EUC said...

I know what that's like (at least from your perspective, not his). I've run into people I knew in high school who are now meth addicts and been their lawyer for the day. I found volunteering at a shelter made everything else in my life brighter and sweeter, but doing it now where I live would just lead to running into clients, which I'm not overly keen on.

Jennifer said...

Oh, goodness. I feel the wind is knocked out of me a bit, too -- and I am simply reading your words.

Don Mills Diva said...

What a powerful reminder to be grateful for the good things in our life when we have them.

flutter said...

It is amazing how illness can rip the rug right out from under you

Run ANC said...

This caught me by surprise. I'm going to thank my lucky stars right now..

Beck said...

That story is heartrending. Poor man.

Mad said...

Hey Sin. I picked this up for next month's JPs. Other than saying that, I am at a loss for words.

ewe are here said...

Wow, the first person is someone you knew? You're right, it really does hit home, show the tenuousness of the threads of life.

Janet said...

This story is going to weigh heavily on my mind. It's a reminder to cherish what I've got, I think. Thanks for writing this beautiful post.