My friend Willy* has been in the Wake Co. Detention Center for a little over three weeks now. I miss his unsteady gait, warm smile and quick wit more than I can tell you. I wish that you knew him – he is just one of those rarities I want to share with the world.
I have been at Love Wins for seven months now and I tell you honestly: I mean it sincerely when I say I love everyone the same but I like Willy just a tiny bit more. His eyes smile in the same way my grandfather’s did, and his personality is quite similar (which is to say that quite often it reads to others like sandpaper but to me is spun sugar).
Individuals without a permanent, non-tent residence find themselves in jail more often than most. The reasons for being there vary. For Willy this visit may not have been a bad thing – in addition to being smart as a whip, a war veteran and a man of Biblical knowledge which I will never possess, Willy has a drinking problem, seizures, heart problems and a cane. At least in this facility they are monitoring his health somewhat and he has access to three meals a day.
I was unprepared for the simultaneous sadness at his situation mixed with joy at having someone care enough to come and see them in my friend’s eyes. It was not something I will soon forget.
There was nothing I could do for my friend except that – show up.
We think that we haven’t gotten anything done with our day or even our lives if we can’t point to some milestone and say “look what I did.” Sometimes the biggest things we can do aren’t measurable; aren’t milestones; aren’t things. Sometimes they’re showing up at a detention center on a cold Tuesday morning and spending time with your friend over a video monitor and because there is occassion to laugh and cry the whole time laughing while you are together.
*The previous narrative is true, but out of respect for my friend the name has been changed.
If you are asking yourself why I do this I think the pertinent question is why I feel I must.
I would love to live in a world where no one lives outside who did not choose daily to do so, but I do not think I will live to see that day. I am bold enough to dream of a day when the stigma against those without shelter is such that people like myself and countless others who are their friends and thus the priveleged keepers of their stories no longer deem it necessary to change their names.