Years ago, I learned a very important lesson that this week, I forgot completely.
I tend to look at all of life through the filter that is my life. I have a home. Clean clothes. Healthy food. Facilities. I assume everyone desires the same, and that if they don't have it, they want to be rescued.
Martinez proved me wrong today--and freed me, too.
I had gone downtown on an errand this morning, and when I returned, there was Martinez--hunched over, head down--on his bus bench. I pulled up and handed him another 1000 calorie pack. This time I showed him how the zipper worked.
When I got home, I implored Jim to call a Spanish-speaking friend who could translate over the speaker phone on his Blackberry and drive down the street to meet Martinez for himself. While he's at it, let's bungee roll a bedspread, a pair of jeans, socks, shirt, and offer him a coat Jim's not using anymore. Before we head out, I wash a couple of tangerines and a pear and place them in a paper sack.
But now Martinez is not there.
Jim and I duck into the nearby fast food restaurant and ask the people there if they know Martinez. They do. They don't know him by name, but they know who I'm talking about. They tell us that they give him water and sometimes they sell him food with the money motorists hand him. That's good. I feel hopeful.
We decide to hang around for a few minutes and see if he turns up. At the end of my grilled chicken sandwich, he does. He's back on his bench and so we drive over, call our friend, and ask him to explain to Martinez the options he has for shelter and care. Does he want to go?
Oh, and can he use this bed roll and clothing?
No?...Is there anything he needs?
He tells Jim, "socks." Just the socks. So we give him the socks.
After a bit of one-way conversation about the shelter options, Martinez apparently says yes, he would like to go. But he makes no motion toward that end. He just sits, dipping bread chunks into a can of black beans. Jim and I hang up with the friend and begin to discuss our options. Should we request a Spanish-speaking police officer to come transport him? Should Jim drive him over? Where is it? The main shelter isn't answering the phone today.
Meanwhile, Martinez doesn't actually seem interested in going. Did he even understand what our friend was telling him?
As we spoke to one another--Jim and me--Martinez inexplicably picked up only one of the few food bags that had accumulated on his bus bench, and walked away. He didn't look back. He didn't say bye. He just...walked..away.
I think we were uninvited guests who wouldn't leave--and...so he did. Which is kind of funny and embarrassing all at the same time.
So, I am relieved to remember this lesson. Not everyone wants what I have. Some folks choose their unenviable circumstances purposefully. They do not want to be rescued.
And maybe that was the catch this week. Maybe it wasn't a lack of selflessness that kept me from taking in Martinez--maybe it was a lack of calling.