This weekend was the pinnacle week for the FVMs, our chance to prove our competence at the Inn. The team went on retreat Thursday night after the meal, leaving Emily, Maureen and I to run the Inn Friday and Saturday... all by ourselves! Needless to say, everything went smoothly and was actually a lot of fun! Emily coordinated on Friday and I coordinated on Saturday with very few problems. It was actually quite liberating for us to be able to have the final say, to give to people without having to ask someone else first, and to not fear being undermined by the seasoned Team members. In essence, we got our own little retreat and built our own sense of confidence in our abilities to work at the Inn.
We decided that we should celebrate our successful weekend by playing games and having some drinks at our house. After a few hours, Emily and I were hungry so we walked over to where the food is plentiful (the Inn) and scarfed down some delicious donuts. We snagged some other snacks and headed out the door. As usual, there was someone laying on the steps of the Inn so, as usual, we tapped his shoulder and asked him to move. Without response from him, we started shaking him, still to no avail. Some of the guests who regularly hang out on the corner of Kensington and Hagert informed Emily and I that this guy was at the AA/NA meeting across the street at 9pm and they saw him staggering around the Avenue. Debbie, a guest, told us she saw him take a bunch of pills and then he landed himself on the steps. Debbie also told us that prior to him passing out, Mike, as we learned his name was, told her that he wanted to get into a rehab program but because of the location and the pervasive drug problem in this area, one cannot easily receive such treatment. So Mike tried cutting himself to prove mental instability with the hope that it would get him into a program. Still, with no luck, Mike took a handful of seroquel, an anti-dementia/anti-anxiety medication, and was attempting suicide to get into a program.
It took the ambulance 3 different calls and almost an hour to get to us. They aren't typically so quick to come to the Kensington area, especially on a drug-related call. Emily and I sat with Mike to make sure he continued breathing and holding him upright until the ambulance came. He was unable to talk and was unresponsive to any type of touch, even pain. The emergency response team took him away in the ambulance and we were left with Debbie who stood on the street crying.
I asked her what was wrong and she said "I don't want to end up like that". For her, it is a possibility, but for me, it is so far from the life that I lead. Emily and I walked back to our warm house and went to bed. I am left questioning why agencies, hospitals and the government is so reluctant to provide help. Clearly Mike was desperate, but what if no one had called the ambulance? What if Emily and I didn't go to the Inn to get food? Because the hospital didn't want to take the risk on Mike, he very easily could've been there when we went to mass this morning. How did it get to the point that he felt he had to try to kill himself before someone would help him? Well, I'm not entirely convinced that he's getting the help he needs. I fear that his stomach was pumped and he's back on the street left to deal with his addiction on his own.
No, my life here is nothing like my life back home. And no, that was not how I wanted to end my night of celebration. But I am so grateful that I was able to see what I did, that Emily and I went to the Inn when we did, and that for at least last night, Mike got some help and will be able to live another day. I pray that he continues to have the desire to get help and that people are more willing to help.
In just three months (yes, three months today!), my world has changed. My understanding of life, my understanding of gratitude, my understanding of love has changed.