There’s a man, I’ll call him “Bill”, who has hovered close to The Dale for a number of years. We have a complicated relationship. I admit that at first I was rather scared of Bill, an emotion that I don’t regularly feel with people. Most of our earliest encounters involved him being very angry with me because I didn’t have what he needed. I vividly recall holding back tears as I repeatedly explained that The Dale truly had no money to get tokens during the summer we first became under-housed. He wasn’t buying it though.
I have always been amazed that Bill keeps coming back, especially when we’ve told him he needs to take a break and that time has finally passed. He seems to have a love/hate relationship with almost everything we do (something that we’ve talked about me sharing). He hates our food and then he loves it; he can’t stand that we stand up to him and then he respects us for it. Bill can be every season in the space of a single drop-in.
I remember sensing a shift toward friendship when Bill started to tease me and Joanna. He’d see us outside and say, “don’t you girls ever GO HOME? You two are joined at the hip. You need to put your feet up. Have a drink. Rest.” I started to see that in his own way, Bill was often looking out for people, including us. More recently he’s even been able to receive a little teasing back.
Along the way I have learned more about Bill’s past (and he mine) and how it impacts his present. Life has not been easy. What Bill and we humans in general sometimes do is respond to our own pain by making life hard for others. It becomes a vicious cycle that is neither healthy nor good. I’ve learned that The Dale is one of the few places able to push back on this pattern in Bill’s life, while not having to push him entirely away.
We saw Bill today. He was in a pretty good mood, despite being anxious about an upcoming court date that could drastically change his life. On his way out the door he said, “I need something from you”. Never knowing exactly what this might mean, I said “well, you can ask. If I can, I’ll help”.
“I need you to pray for me”.
I promised him that I would. Watching him leave, I felt a wash of gratitude for how far Bill and I/The Dale have come. It has been a journey of very tiny steps forward, still occasionally halted by some big steps back. This work is messy, hard, sometimes scary and in the end…good.