Usually in the case of an incident at rough edges I try to make sure everyone is heard and given appropriate time to explain their actions. So, this incident wouldn’t be any different right. So what if I had been warned about this patron in particular since the moment I had arrived at rough edges.
I see him standing in the room at roughies talking to another patron. Finally, he is here I can speak to him and get this whole thing sorted out. Given how transient people can be when they are experiencing homelessness it’s hard to get them in a room when I’m there, which is frustrating for times like these.
So he’s here, I better nip it in the bud. I have never been great at confrontation but I must say I’m getting better here. I take a deep breath and walk over to where he is. He’s not facing me and currently in conversation with another patron. I need to get him alone so we can talk in a place that’s safe for both of us.
“David!” (made up name) I say loud enough to hear but not to loud that he thinks I’m trying to confront him about something he’s done, which is exactly what I am doing. He turns and looks at me, his face gives a lot away about the life he leads. He is gaunt and it is apparent he has spent the night on the street.
“I need to talk to you about what happened the other night.” I say as gently as I can, somewhat expectant that he will not respond in a civil manner.
“NO!” He says and walks outside.
“Dam it” I think to myself. You may imagine that a peaceful and respectful culture at rough edges is one of the most important things we can provide in order to achieve a lounge room for those who have no usual home. There are two ways to set culture. Step 1, set values, step 2 enforce those values. This means that this conversation needs to take place no matter how uncomfortable I am about it.
I try again “David” I say again as I get to him.
“What do you want!!” he says abruptly. He’s agitated now this is what I didn’t what,
“We need to talk about the other night.”
“No!!” he repeats himself louder this time.
“If we don’t talk than I’m afraid you cannot stay here.” I say with some hesitance in my voice. It’s then that it happens and pay attention because this is my prayer point. He goes straight to anger. Expletives come pouring out of his mouth as he gets up and strides off. He’s in a rage.
All I wanted to do was talk to him and hear his point of view. What is that guys problem. Why would he not want to talk, at the very least he can make his complaint about the other member of the incident. But then I realised, his anger is not an attack on me, it’s a defence against me. And then the question came into my mind that made my heart break for the guy.
What has happened to David?
What has happened to David to make him so angry. How has it come to be that his first reaction is that we’re against him, no question. Has he been so pushed aside, so devalued and so let down that the request for conversation is straight away met with a feeling of injustice. What has happened in this man’s life that means he cannot trust anyone to hear his point of view, to take his side or to be in his corner in the fight.
Admittedly, reflecting on the conversation, I could have handled it better, been clearer about wanting to hear his side of the story but to be honest this is exactly what I expected him to do.
This is not the only person who reacts like this and while I sit on the surface with these reactions and argue my point, I feel alright. But when I stop to consider the pain that must have been experienced by some of our patrons to feel a need to fight like this every time, it’s then that I see why they end up in the place they are in.
This man has been hurt.
Not on a single occasion but repeatedly, throughout his life and now living on the street with every person who walks past him and does not recognise his needs and does not hear his cry, he feels it again. The idea he was taught to believe is cemented in his mind.
I am nothing, I am No one!!
The words seem so cheap to you and I. But imagine if you actually believed those words. Imagine if you woke in the morning and that was your attitude towards yourself. When you fall asleep you doze off believing your own worthlessness.
Now take that to a relationship. Go and find a job. Try to break an addiction or beat a mental illness. Do we know what we ask people to do as they experience what definitely is the worst moments of their lives.
By the way I am no hero at this. I constantly forget this idea and simply think about what they are saying to me. How do their words affect me and how do they make me feel? For selfcare it’s important I take some time to consider this but in reality, this is really my focus in the altercations I have. I am holding on to my own worth more than I want to give him his.
So, friends this is my prayer today. Please pray for our patrons, pray they see how Much worth God has given them before they took their first shot from a needle and after they spent their first night on the street. Please pray they feel Gods love before they feel the usual things they have to deal with, rejection and all.
As a final request can I ask that when you give to rough edges, give out of an attitude of understanding. That these are not people that just haven’t done life well but instead, know that life just hasn’t done so well by them.