While working as paramedic/firefighter of the first response unit, I had first started noticing this guy when my unit was posted at the corner of Glenwood and Second Ave.
At first glance you could see that he was unkept, dirty, and he reeked of alcohol. It’s sad to say but he wasn’t the only one who hung out on that corner that was in that condition. He would approach us and ask us for money or something to eat. We were reluctant to give him money fearing that he would spend it on alcohol and it was obvious that he didn’t need anymore of that. In the middle of our conversation, we were dispatched to a call and he was gone when we returned.
Our next shift back we found, “Vernon,” as he was known, standing on the same corner. This time though I began to ask him about his situation and why he was out here. His answers were vague and he deflected anything serious with his smile and humor. After about a fifteen minute conversation, he asked for money for food. I told him no, but I would go across the street to KFC and buy him a dinner for which he was grateful.
Over the next few months we built a relationship with Vernon. Sometimes he was the one in need of EMS and sometimes he was helping us with the ones in need. He became “our guy” on the corner. Often he would deflect or mediate the grief some of the other guys on that corner would try to give us.
Day after day, shift after shift, year after year went by and we would see our buddy Vernon out there. We tried to help him change. Offered to get him in rehab or help him find a job, but there was some hidden pain that he kept on that corner.
One year as Christmas rolled around we brought Vernon a coat and some gloves. He cried like a baby, but man was he happy! That was the last time I saw Vernon for several years. I was transferred to the north end of the county and no longer worked that district.
Then one day, as my son and I were eating lunch on the east side of town I noticed a clean cut african american guy who kept staring at me as we ate. He was dressed in the clothes that a parcel delivery person wears and he looked so familiar. He eventually finished his meal, put his tray up and walked directly over to my table smiled and asked, “Do you remember me?”
The moment I saw that smile I knew it was Vernon! He was sober. He was cleaned up. He was employed. And I was in total disbelief.
He spent the next few minutes telling me all about his life then stood up to leave and said a simple “Thank you.”
The ride home with my son was awesome as I recounted all my Vernon stories to which he asked, “Thats that guy?!?”
For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called:Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. – Isaiah 9:6
Share the reason for the season. I know you know those who are searching.