Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Prayer for Eugene

For a couple years now, I have been working our support hotline two days a week.  Last week was a below average kind of week, very few calls and emails, presumably due to the Thanksgiving holiday.  This week, WOW, has it been busy!  I've had more calls today than I have had in one day, ever, I think.

The very last call is by far the most memorable, though.  There was just something about this guy, something that really touched my heart.  I thought I would share a little bit about him with you.

His name is Eugene, a seemingly middle-aged gentleman with a strong Indian accent.  At times, it was difficult to understand him, but as he spoke, there was a peaceful kindness in his voice, absolutely no bitterness or anger or anything.  Currently, he is living in Los Angeles, released from prison just three months ago.  He is forbidden to talk with his wife or family.  He is completely isolated and alone and he is homeless.  He told me he feels like he is still in prison, and I don't doubt that he is...

Sometime during his incarceration, he found God and began leading a Christian life.  He goes to church.  He has a pastor.  He has made some new friends.  He has found a way to get at least one meal daily several days a week.  Four days a week, one church offers $2.00 lunches.  Another church offers a free lunch three days a week.  Another offers a free meal on Sunday nights.

Eugene joined a senior center and enrolled in free yoga or tai chi classes as well as a free computer class.  He says he has the time since he doesn't have a job.  He is trying so very hard to be compliant with his restrictions and he is terrified of accidently violating his parole and upon purchasing a cell phone today, called his parole officer immediately to give him his phone number.  The second call he made was to our support hotline.

When he asked his pastor where he could park his car overnight without getting into trouble, the pastor advised him to park it at a 24-hour fitness center.  Eugene wanted to be sure there would be no trouble, so as insurance, he purchased a membership so that if asked by police, he would have a legitimate reason for being there.  He waits until the wee hours of the night or morning before entering the building to take a shower.  He sleeps in his vehicle.  He bought a sunshade for his windshield so that it wouldn't get too hot in his car.  He mentioned experiencing leg cramps while trying to sleep at night and I suggested he get some bananas, not knowing if he could afford them.  I did not ask him where what little money he has had came from.

Through all of this, his attitude has remained positive and spiritually he is at peace.  He shared me with how he has suffered moments of depression and despair and has even thought of suicide, but he has searched his heart and soul and feels that God has a better purpose for him.

I feel it, too.  And, I am not a particularly religious person.

Eugene seemed so grateful to just be talking with me on the phone.  He repeatedly thanked me and expressed his appreciation.  I felt like I was doing nothing, just sitting on the phone and listening, but then I realized if I were all alone with no one to talk to and I found myself with an understanding ear on the other end of the line, I would be grateful too.

I gave Eugene some contact info for some people in California and suggested he attend the next RSOL meeting in L.A. this Saturday.  I hope he goes.  I feel that if he does, he can make more connections with people, something he really needs.  I truly got the sense that more than anything in the world, this man needs compassion and understanding from his fellow man.  He asked me to pray for him, and I assured him I would.

And then I did something I have never done with any hotline caller.  I asked him if I could call him back in a week to see how he's doing.  He seemed delighted by my request.  So, next Wednesday, I plan to give Eugene a call.  Perhaps he'll have some good news to share with me that I can share with you.

Please pray for Eugene!