Desperate words broke our Micah morning calm.
“Come quick, come quick. We’ve found her and she is dead.”
It had been an unusual three days since we last saw this particular client. But it was not so unusual for a homeless search party to stumble upon her in a feeble state and come running for help.
This, however, was the worst of our fears coming true.
Years ago, she had jumped from a moving truck to escape an abusive boyfriend. Her coat had caught in the door and she dragged behind for blocks. Two broken feet and a fractured skull left her permanently reliant on a crutch and absent of short-term memory. For half a decade she wobbled the streets–drinking to kill the misery, falling into further injury and getting stuck in life-threatening circumstances.
We were used to looking for her. We were used to pulling her out of predicaments. And the idea of finding her dead one day had more than crossed our mind. But as we raced with our homeless friends to the location of her supposed demise, we could not fathom that the day we feared had come.
There under the bridge she lay. At the bottom of a steep hill, her frail body curled in a crevice tucked away from the elements. Mud caked her limbs and the smell of urine-soaked jeans waffled through the air. We called her name and shook her vigorously. Just then, a quiet cry emerged. Over the sound of rushing river behind us, we could just make out the words, “Please, oh please…Let me die tonight.”
For three days, we learned, she had been lying in the mud under the bridge. She had crept down the hill to find a safe place to sleep for the night. With an already unsteady balance, she had slipped, hurt herself and couldn’t manage the steep climb back to the road. It wasn’t until another homeless man came scoping out her sleeping space that she was found. After 72 hours without food and the ability to get up and use the bathroom, she was a mess, she was hopeless and falling into eternal sleep seemed promising–but she was by no means, dead.
Most of the world, at this time, had written off this tiny woman as an alcoholic, a non-compliant and a hopeless case. Doctors shook their heads. Police kept arresting her. And protective services threw up their hands. No one believed her path could change.
Micah, however, left the scene that frightful day with a new persistence. It became a priority to know her whereabouts everyday. Someone picked her up each morning, brought her to Micah and gave her a volunteer job to occupy her time until she needed to be somewhere. Almost every day, there were doctor’s appointments to attend, papers to complete for the social security process, evaluations to follow through and steps of daily living to fulfill. In six months, a social security check ended her six years of homelessness.
Whenever I doubt the work Micah does each day, I consider this story. Few other clients have carried such a unanimous expectation of failure from the world.
Yet today, we can share lunch in an apartment of her own. She can call me to share stories from her latest bingo game. She has a “lady friend” whose son sometimes comes to take them out for dinner. And she has the ability to call her 19-year-old son on his birthday. We’re no longer digging through clothing donations for a decent pair of shoes that aren’t too much bigger than her actual shoe size. And she gets to collect a wardrobe that extends beyond a baseball cap, single outfit, a duck-taped watch and a bottle ring on her finger. Purple sundress, sandles, pink and silver ring and a fedora-style hat, to be exact.
In her, I have witnessed a true miracle of rebirth. I knew her as a woman once dead to the world and lost for a reason to wake up from day to day. But faith in what could be has rolled the stone from her tomb and released an incredible story.
As the resurrection of Jesus transformed the work of the disciples, my client’s journey has shaped my message. When the dead rise, there is hope. When there is hope, there is faith. And where there is faith, all people have value, all lives have purpose and all things are possible.