Sometimes the reasons we do things may not be so apparent. The reasons are ours and not meant to be shared. A woman came to the shelter I was the director of straight from prison. She’d been incarcerated for well over a decade, a lot had changed and some things remained the same in her life. Her first weekend of freedom, she relapsed. The staff had failed her…I failed her. I hadn’t made a plan for her to get her through the weekend without someone there full time for her to lean on. On Sunday night when she didn’t show up, I called a friend and we went in search of her.
My friend had nothing to do with social work; he was just a big guy who cared about me. When you’re about to go hit the streets and parks of Seattle in the middle of the night, a little backup is necessary. We went to Freeway Park, we went to Broadway, we went to Victor Eckstein park…and we finally found her. High, wet, cold and frightened. We put her in the car, took her to the Hurricane Café, fed her and she very honestly said she had a little more and she wanted to finish it…it was gonna eat her alive to not. So, we made a plan to meet at the benches at 6 AM…just a few short hours away. My friend and I went home. The next morning I went alone to the park, found ‘V’, took her back, fed her again, she took a shower and went to bed to sleep it off. She’d been out of prison for 5 days.
The powers that be fired me. Said I crossed boundaries, acted unprofessionally, told me it wasn’t my job to chase clients through the streets of Seattle. They couldn’t understand my reasons.
My sister is my reason. Today is her birthday and she tried to drink herself to death. My gut couldn’t rest after our morning phone call, so I went to find her. When I did find her, she was – literally – moments from death. She was non-responsive, nearly over the edge. We spent her birthday together at Harborview. This isn’t the first time I’ve found her like this, isn’t the first time she’s drank so much she nearly died, not the first…or even twentieth or fiftieth….trip to the hospital. It’s the third just this month. And no matter how many more trips we take, no matter how many more drinks she takes, or where she lives, or how she lives, I’ll be there. And when she’s lost, I’ll go find her. When she is covered in puke, I’ll hug her. When she’s scared, I’ll promise to never leave her. She’s my sister.
My reasons for giving my all for mentally ill, incarcerated, addicted, homeless people? My sister. That person in front of me may not be my sister, but they’re someone’s sister, mother, daughter, brother, father, son, friend.
You see a drunk, homeless, worthless person. I see my sister. Look in her eyes…they look just like mine.