There is undeniably violence, agony and bitterness in this world; and it’s understandable to question a Devine presence with so many assumedly unheard cries for relief or rescue. We’ve all wept in pain and sympathy searching for a heavenly grace to heal our wounds; whether those wounds are from when we’ve fallen or thrust upon us indiscriminately from sickness or violence.
Among the millions of souls desperately searching for hope, one man wept for God to end his pain as he prepared to commit suicide. Five stories below ground in the Chicago Loop, a 39 year old homeless man lay bleeding on a rat infested pile of soiled cardboard clutching a lethal dose of heroin in his right hand while searching for a viable vein. However, he was unable to keep his eyes open long enough to even stab his leg with the dirty needle as he violently screamed in pain.
Ricardo had his jaw broken two weeks ago when someone attacked him outside a homeless shelter for his coat and shoes. He was taken to the emergency department unconscious and had his jaw wired shut; and a week later he left the hospital with tissue slippers and a hospital gown. He retreated to the subterranean world of Lower Wacker to protect himself from the violence of the cold and fellow man.
Two hours before I pulled my bus up to this screaming man, the wires in his jaw had come loose while he slept and cut completely through his cheeks. As he lay on the ground holding himself still, a drug dealer came along an offered him a lethal relief in exchange for his belt, backpack and two dollars.
It took Ricardo a great deal of courage to steady himself while I cut the loose wire and pulled it out of his cheek. While pressing sterile compresses to stop the bleeding, he slowly collapsed in my arms exhausted and relieved. An hour later his wounds were dressed and we sorted through some fresh clothes, blankets and food. The last thing I knew to offer him was some donated books from Jim Ash; and to that he produced a swollen smile as he was an avid reader. As he placed his new books in a Ziploc bag, he threw the heroin that was in his pocket into a sewer grate saying he couldn’t enjoy the books while drugged up.
Two hours after we met, I turned away to head back to the bus. To that he tightly gripped my arm, started to cry and whispered, “I prayed and you came.”
“Riccardo, “I replied, “I prayed and he sent me to you.”