A commendation

As an aside, I wanted to talk about my father-in-law (I might as well call him that, since Michael and I might as well be married) and something he did last week.

(This is kinda long. As usual. Skip it if you like.)

David might be best described as “prickly.” He’s the kind of person who doesn’t care what anyone thinks — not even his own nearest and dearest — and always says exactly what he thinks or believes, even if it causes offense. If a person — any person, including me or his wife or son — complains about his behavior, David suggests they should just leave if they don’t like it. He is also really tone-deaf when it comes to personal boundaries and often says and does inappropriate things — things that, basically, if it was anyone OTHER than David, would shock and horrify everyone. But because it’s David, nobody (including me) seems to care.

He doesn’t have a lot of friends and frankly, many times he acts like a total jerk. And he doesn’t care if people think that, and he won’t change his behavior just to comply with others’ expectations. He’s been like that for as long as I’ve known him, and from what I’ve heard, he’s been like that all his life.

Yet he’s actually one of the kindest and most genuine people I know, utterly without malice. Yes, his words and sometimes his actions can hurt people’s feelings, but that’s never his intention. He’s not at all selfish either. He regularly goes out of his way to help people out, and I know I can trust and depend on him. Once I called him at like 3:30 a.m. to ask for a ride — and it wasn’t really an emergency — and he was like, “Sure, I’ll be right over” and came and picked me up and delivered me to my destination without any comment on the timing, acting as if it was 3:30 p.m. and not a.m., as if he hadn’t been woken from a sound sleep. I really appreciate his bluntness because he’s one of the only people I know who almost never lies. Honesty is very important to me, because I have a hard time picking up on nonverbal social cues.

Anyway, something happened last week that I wanted to tell you guys about, something that demonstrates the true compassion David has underneath the “jerk” exterior.

Last Tuesday I went to see my family doctor in Ohio in the morning for post-concussion followup. I also had therapy at the mental health clinic in town scheduled for that afternoon. I decided to kill the in-between hours at Michael’s parents’ house. I can come over there unannounced, whether or not anyone’s home — I’ve got a key. David was at home when I arrived.

He asked me if I’d like to go to Wal-Mart with him and I agreed. We made purchases and while David was driving us home, he made an unexpected U-turn and parked. I asked him why he had done so and he said, “I want to find out what’s going on with those two people. Could you talk to them?” (David can’t walk without crutches and it’s a pain in the butt for him to get in and out of cars, so it made more sense for me to do it.)

They were on the sidewalk outside the town’s sketchiest hotel (there’s actually only two hotels, but trust me, this one is really sketchy), with what appeared to be all their worldly possessions piled on the ground around them. There was a gray-haired woman, maybe in her sixties, who was lying on the ground covered with a blanket, and another woman, who looked to be in her twenties or maybe early thirties, sitting in a wheelchair.

I asked what was going on, and the older woman explained that they’d been evicted from the hotel. It wasn’t for nonpayment of rent; in fact, they’d paid up in advance, but they’d been evicted anyway — I didn’t ask why — and the hotel refused to give their money back. The woman said they’d even contacted the police, but the police refused to intervene. She went on to explain that the woman in the wheelchair was her daughter, but the wheelchair was her own; she had only one leg.

I spoke to the daughter, and she told me she’d been diagnosed “mildly mentally retarded” and also had bipolar disorder. She also said she did not want to leave her mother. They were homeless and had no money and nowhere to go.

This I reported back to David. He sent me back to the women to ask what their names were, then I went back to the car and told him. There are no homeless shelters in this town, and the town itself is like a 45-minute drive from the nearest city big enough to have a shelter, but the local YMCA has a few rooms for destitute people. So David called them, got no answer, and left a message explaining the situation and asking them to help. He started making other calls, including to the mayor’s office.

I decided to make a few calls of my own and stepped out of the car so I could do it without being distracted by David. I went back to the two women and asked the daughter if she received services at the mental health clinic I go to. She said she had, but I’m not sure if she meant she had in the past or whether she was still a client/patient there. I called the clinic and asked to speak to their crisis person, and told her the situation. She said she didn’t think the clinic could help, but suggested a few other people to call.

I called a local nonprofit that provides services to mentally disabled children and young adults. The woman there suggested I contact the county’s board of human development (or something like that, I can’t really remember), and gave me their number. I called them. The director said he thought he might be able to help, and he asked where these two women were — still in the exact place we’d found them — and promised to send somebody out to at least talk to them. However, the man didn’t sound all that optimistic. In any case I think that if they could offer any help at all it would probably be for the daughter only, and she had said she didn’t want to leave her mother.

I called the pastor at the church my dad and sister go to, and he referred me straight back to the YMCA. I  couldn’t think of anyone else, so I got back in the car. We’d been sitting there for like 45 or so minutes and I was supposed to go to my therapy session soon. David told me he’d struck out too, but he was going to keep trying after he dropped me off at the clinic. He asked me to tell the women about this, so I went to them and said, “We found someone who says they’ll send someone to go out here and talk to you. We have to go now, but we’ll keep trying.” The older woman started crying and then said thank you.

By the time David dropped me off I was crying too, feeling so bad for those two women and furious that, in one of the wealthiest nations on earth, two disabled people were sitting out on the street with no roof over their heads. I was so upset that the secretary asked me to sit not in the lobby but in a more private area. She gave me a tissue box and asked if there was anything she could do to help and if I would okay waiting for my therapist to come get me or did I want someone to sit with me. I told her I was okay to wait and explained about the two women. By the time my therapist came to get me around ten minutes later, I had regained my composure.

After my therapy, I went back to Michael’s parents’ house to get my stuff, and asked David, “Any luck?” He told me he’d finally found someone who promised they would go out and assist the two women. I was very glad, although still angry that they’d gotten into that situation to begin with.

I just wanted to let people know about this: a guy whom so many people think is an ass was on the phone for well over an hour, calling everyone he could think of, doing basically everything he could to get help for these two women who were complete strangers. I hadn’t even noticed either of them until he turned around and pulled over, and if I had, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to offer assistance to them.

8 thoughts on “A commendation

  1. Marshall Loveday October 14, 2016 / 5:41 pm

    David sounds like someone I would enjoy talking to. By the way, by the way you describe him, he sounds more like ‘brutally honest’, rather than jerky. Some people don’t like hearing the truth, especially if it’s about themselves.

    • Meaghan October 15, 2016 / 2:28 pm

      I think to a certain extent it runs in his family. A few years ago, Michael and his parents and I went to David’s brother’s house to hang out and play some games. I barely know Michael’s uncle, having only seen him at the the family’s bi-annual family reunions, but I like him. He said hi to us all and said to me, “Meaghan, you look good, I see you’ve put on some weight.” Now, I wasn’t offended by his comment, but that’s really not a wise thing to say to a woman, especially one you barely know.

      Most times with me it’s not David’s words that upset me so much as his actions. An example: My father makes homemade wine and puts it in used two-liter pop bottles and gives it out as gifts. I regularly supply him with bottles and whenever I or Michael get done with a bottle, I rinse it out and put it in a certain place, so when I visit my dad I can take a bunch of bottles to give him.

      Anyway, one day David came to the house, saw my pop bottles and threw them in the recycling bin outside. Thinking that perhaps there’d been a misunderstanding, I went to him and explained the purpose of the bottles. He said something like, “I don’t care, They look trashy and I don’t want them in my sight and I don’t want my son living in a house with that kind of mess.”

      I didn’t know what to say about that, so after he left I retrieved the bottles from the bin, put them back where they’d been, and continued to add more to the collection.

      The next week he came over again, and I was asleep when he arrived. Michael specifically told him not to throw the bottles out. David dumped them in the recycling bin again. He was gone by the time I woke up, and I got extremely upset when I found out what he’d done, against Michael’s wishes and mine. I actually went across the street to my friend S.’s house, sobbing. It wasn’t so much the bottles as the blatant disrespect.

      When I saw him the following week, we were alone and I confronted him and said, “Stop throwing out my pop bottles. I told you what they’re for. They’re not garbage. Even Michael asked you not to do it.”
      David said, “No.”
      I said, “This is my house, David.”
      He said, “No, it isn’t. It’s Michael’s house.”
      I said, “You don’t have any respect for me, or my property.”
      He said nothing to defend himself against that accusation, only something like, “If you don’t want me to throw them away, don’t put them where I can see them.”

      I asked Michael to talk to David again, but he said it would do no good and I knew he was right. So after that, I did what David said: I hid the bottles so he couldn’t see them when he came over. And I let the issue drop and never spoke to him about pop bottles or respect again. And there the matter rests.

      NOW do you see what people think he’s a total a@*hole?

  2. Jaclyn October 14, 2016 / 11:18 pm

    My kind of guy, that David is. I have friends that can be described this way as well. One is a lady that I used to work with. She cusses like a sailor, and doesn’t take any bs off of anyone, yet she would give a person the shirt off of her back. I like a person that is a straight shooter like that.
    My husband volunteers at a homeless drop in center that is open 3 mornings a week where people come in and have breakfast, use a computer, shoot a game of pool, play checkers, and just be comfortable for a few hours. These friends are so weary, tired, and sometimes lonely. He is there to listen and be a consistent presence in their lives. No judgement, no immediate solutions to their dilemmas, just a safe place to be. It is in a multi-purpose room at a nice local church. The pastor has a heart of gold and opened the doors of this big extra room. Most churches do not want to deal with it, and it can have it’s draw-backs with some people that show up. But this particular pastor is willing to take that chance and live by the golden-rule.
    In California, homelessness is everywhere. Most areas have great weather, especially where we live near the coast, and people can sleep just about anywhere that is safe, or in their car. We found out a few months ago that our dear friend from about 30 years back lives in his car and moves nightly to different locations throughout the city. He gets Social Security, but his health is rapidly declining from an illness he battles that affects his hips and legs. He doesn’t ask us for help or want it, but he sure appreciates that we treat him with kindness and dignity. The greatest kindness that my husband did for him recently was to give him an extra guitar we had. He used to play in a folk band, and is a wonderful guitarist with a beautiful voice. Now we see him various places, like parks, and occasionally at the homeless drop in center, playing his guitar and singing the songs he has written.
    Finding a home or shelter for the homeless is not easy these days, but being available and listening and caring for the homeless, like David and you did, is extremely valuable and most times appreciated. Many people look the other way, or just hand them money. David and you took the time to care, and then follow through!

    • Meaghan October 15, 2016 / 2:37 pm

      I’ve heard that in Utah — or maybe it’s not the entire state but just Salt Lake City — they’re offering free apartments to homeless people. The idea is “housing first” because it’s difficult if not impossible to address issues like poor health, addiction, and finding employment if you’re sleeping under a bridge. The apartments aren’t free forever — just until the resident finds a job — but it’s a great start.

      I’ve heard that the math says it would actually be less of a burden on taxpayers to give every single homeless person or family unit a free private residence than it is to pay for things like medical bills, addiction care, mental health treatment, and policing and so on, problems that either stem directly from homelessness or are made much worse by it.

  3. MJ October 15, 2016 / 12:16 am

    My dad is exactly like David. Actually, my if my dad weren’t my dad, I would be extremely intimidated by him. He takes no bull from anyone, especially if it has to do with my brother or myself. Yet this man has never let me down. He has always been there for me 110% no matter how badly I mess up. He is the same with my younger brother. And every Christmas he spends a few hundred dollars donating to the local women’s centers and shelters and food banks. Rough around the edges but with a heart of gold. That is how we describe him! Thank you for sharing your story!

  4. Lauren October 15, 2016 / 2:45 am

    You are both wonderful people for helping these women! It is really sad there are not more resources to help the homeless.

    • Meaghan October 15, 2016 / 2:39 pm

      I wouldn’t have even noticed them if David hadn’t stopped. And if I did, I probably would have just driven past them. If I had stopped I MIGHT give them money, but it wouldn’t have occurred to me to start calling organizations to request help for them. So it’s really David’s doing here. It’s often like that: when one person in a group (even a group of two) takes action about something, the other(s) often follow suit.

      • Lauren October 16, 2016 / 5:20 am

        True, but I think you deserve quite a bit of credit too. When asked to go speak to the women, you did so and in such a caring manner. I might be wrong but I am guessing the majority of people wouldn’t have even gotten out of the car if they had been the ones asked.

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