for the first couple days all i could go on were the stories i had heard others tell me. anxiety began setting in a bit, though the anger stood front and center and ready for action. my mind has functioned the same way for so long. you hurt mine and i will hurt you.
my blood boiled inside of my veins.
then i finally saw him.
bruised, bashed, beaten and broken.
before today, dave looked every bit the homeless man he was. he even shuffled his feet in the stereotypical way you might a imagine a beggar doing so. his unruly hair and unmanaged beard also fit the stereotype. he collected cigarettes butts from bus stops to gather up enough tobacco to roll his own cigarettes. his fingernails and teeth stained yellow and brown from his habit.
but that was only dave’s outer appearance. you can’t even come close to judging dave’s book by examining his cover. what he may appear to lack on the outer shell, he more than makes up for inside.
i’ve known dave for almost 3 years now. met him through a few of the other street guys i was working with at the time. dave had told me about the hassles the local police had been given him for panhandling. they had barred him from panhandling in a certain area that was a big money-maker for him. instead of listening to the police, he continued to go back to the spot and work his ‘trade’. a man’s gotta eat.
eventually the police began giving him ridiculously priced fines knowing full well that he couldn’t and wouldn’t pay them. our tax dollars hard at work, ladies and gentlemen of halifax.
dave and i began to hang out and talk on a frequent basis. it didn’t take long for me to realize that dave was a genius. he knew his way around computers like he had created them. his understanding of philosophical and economic matters made me a bit envious at times. geography, history, psychology, sociology, physics – you name it, dave knew it.
and all this without a shred of arrogance or pride.
humble as a hummingbird.
“you are still alive,” i say as i sit down beside him at the table.
“they don’t know how but ya, i am.”
dave’s arm is in a sling overtop of a blue hospital shirt, resting on the left arm of his new wheelchair. his eyes are both blood-shot and his face is a mess, to say the least. his left eye is worse where they hit him with a large rock. dried blood lines his ears and nostrils.
my blood pressure is rising again.
“what happened, dave?” i ask.
in a robbery attempt to take his gst cheque, a group of young adults attacked and beat dave to within an each of his life. they used a large rock to initially knock him down and then their feet to knock him unconscious. a witness to the assault said they had kicked him in the head 16 more times AFTER dave had been knocked out.
“but ya know what? i forgive them, or at least my heart wants to forgive them,” dave explains to me. “jail is going to eat those young kids alive. as much as i wish they hadn’t done this to me, i wish they hadn’t done it to themselves.”
all i can think about is what i would do if i got my hands on those punks and dave, even in his pain, finds the ability to forgive those who inflicted that very pain on him.
but his story gets worse.
after getting out of the hospital, dave crawls into a cardboard trash bin to make a bed and get some sleep. he wakes up to crashing and banging and his whole world being turned upside down. he then finds himself inside of the back of a large garbage truck. the lid closes tight, shutting off the outside world. then the crushing starts..
can you imagine?!
seriously, try to imagine this scenario happening to you. you get jumped and almost killed in a violent mugging, and then as soon as you are released from the hospital you are thrown into the back of a garbage truck that begins squeezing you to death.
dave talked about the experience in great detail.
he felt his collar-bone snap and his arm begin to bend. the cardboard helped cushion a bit of the crushing at first. eventually there was no more give. pain all over his body. he told me he didn’t know what to do so he began praying.
the crushing stopped.
he began pounding on the side of the garbage truck with his free arm and yelling for help but no one could hear him. the crushing started again. he began praying again.
it stopped again.
he kept praying desperately that the truck would stop so the driver could hear him and free him from his steel torture chamber. it does. the driver stopped to gas up and hears dave pounding on the side of the truck. he opens it up and gets dave out and to the hospital.
“no kidding!” i reply. “God must have things for you to do still.”
he nods his head.
“i definitely believe that, lucas. i’m convinced of it now.”
dinner was about to be served at the shelter so i had to run back into the kitchen to help serve but told dave i’d be back after. he smiled and nodded. afterwards we sat and chatted more about his ordeal.
“you sound different, dave.”
he spoke less like a man who had just been crippled by two life altering incidents and more like a man re-energized and recharged to take life by the horns.
“i know. something clicked,” he tells me. “it’s time for me to make some changes, not only to myself but to the world around me.”
i hope he’s the one to lead the revolution. nothing would make me happier.