This was the fist IDC Project where we took a vote to see which of three suggested activities we would do. This is the activity that won. I’d like to thank Jason Vandehey for suggesting it.
Let me introduce you to Frank. Frank is a 47 year old Italian American from New Jersey who’s had a rough past and is at a place in life he never thought he’d be. I found him holding a sign asking for help in downtown Philadelphia near where I work.
This is his story:
Frank is from New Jersey where he grew up in a Catholic family with two sisters. He had a difficult childhood with a controlling, abusive father, abusive to the extent that his mother couldn’t even tell him, “I love you” in front of his father. If she did, his father would get very angry. Frank thought maybe it had something to do with his father being jealous.
He got involved with drugs as a young man, including some hard stuff and was in and out of jail a few times. He said he wasn’t hanging around the right people.
However, when he was 35, he became the father to a baby boy and decided he didn’t want to live a life of drugs, gangs, and violence anymore. So, he cleaned up his act.
I asked him what happened and how he ended up living on the street. He said he and his wife had fallen on rough times and split up last Thanksgiving, this is when he moved back to Philadelphia. After not being able to get a job and being estranged from his family, he found himself on the street.
I asked him if he ever stays in any of the shelters. He said he’s been in some of the different shelters, but explained to me, “Philly is a black town, at least among the poor. I’m the only white guy in there and there’s a lot of racism, even in the management. Not to mention,” he said, “most of the guys in there are messed up and into a lot of bad crap, drugs and crime.” He said he didn’t want to be around that anymore.
Even though his family is only 30 minutes away, he won’t be seeing them for Christmas. His mom would love to see him, but his father wouldn’t have it. “I’m dead to him,” he said.
For his plan going forward, he’s trying to get into a homeless program where they will help him get back on his feet. He’s also involved in a good church where they serve a meal after the service.
He is optimistic about his future and said that this is only temporary. Throughout our conversation, which was close to an hour, he kept apologizing for being all over the place and talking my ear off. He explained that it had been a while since he talked to anyone.
So, I left him that evening with a grilled chicken sandwich and fries, hot coffee, and some cash and wished him a Merry Christmas and said I’d remember him in my prayers. I told him that I didn’t doubt that he would be able to turn things around and that I really enjoyed talking with him.
In closing, I’ll say that this experience was not at all what I expected. I really enjoyed meeting Frank and left feeling good knowing that I had been a blessing to someone. It also gave me a new perspective on life and those around me and I realized that if I take the time to listen and ask questions to someone whom I might normally pass by, I’ll probably learn something.
Thanks again for the suggestions and voting for the IDC Project. This is something I wouldn’t have done on my own but am now a better person for it.