His eyes lit up with a clarity I have never seen. “You brought me coloring!? These are JUST what I wanted! Oh please when you have time, I would love to have some more. A few minutes later I walk by -than double back in amazement. My supervisor walks by and I nod towards the door and mouth “look.”
He is sitting up at his desk, bent over a geometric lion and coloring meticulously. His desk, once littered with styrofoam cups, now an array of colored pencils.
In the past six weeks he has only left his bed twice for something other than food or hygiene.
My supervisor and I exchange a look of triumph and a thumbs up that was enough to make either of us cry. We are both exhausted from baring the sadness around us. But for a moment this 70 year old man sitting upright surrounded by a rainbow of colored pencils has brought enough joy to make it through one more day.

__________________________________________________

He comes out of the smoking room and walks my direction. Without looking up, I write his name on the waiting list to come back.
“….half…” is the only word I pick out of his mumbled sentence
“You’re only half done? You have time to finish your cigarette, man.” I reply
“no,no,no! ….half…!” he says again

It’s not his fault. My Korean is non-existent at best.
“Sorry?” I say

Without replying he returns to his room, shoulders in their typical hunch against the world. I am surprised when he comes back so quickly, as his room is nearly the last in a very long corridor.
“Look! Half” He exclaims again. And holds a paper up for me to see. My heart catches. I have only seen him smile this big for his cigarettes. Never have I seen him smile, his eyes glowing with pride.

I look up at what he is holding out. It is the print-out coloring page he had chosen earlier that day. “Half!” is completed. Across the middle of the page a word was written he had yet to color — HOPE.
“It’s beautiful” I manage to choke out.
And I really, truly mean it.

________________________________________________________

I work until late into the evening. It’s my favorite time to be there. When no one is around I can stretch the rules. I can have one-on-one conversations with the residents, and maybe give them a few minutes of feeling human again.

He’s told me about how he wants to become a street worker, because one of them changed his life. He has his own rule though — he needs to go six months without “using” before he can start working on this goal. Last week he celebrated three years of sobriety from alcohol. I tell him that if he can beat that he can beat anything.
He talks about his dreams for getting out — starting over. Of all the people in here, I believe he could do it. I give him a New Testament, highlighting a bunch of verses, and writing a short note in the front which contained something to this effect.

Dear ______,
“Jesus reached more “street people” than anyone I know. I think you’d enjoy learning more about him.”

Today he comes to chat after his smoke break.
“Hey I wanted to ask you something. I hope it won’t be weird cause if you say no…” he puts his hand over his heart in mock pain.
But also I can tell he’s serious.
“Would you be willing, like, to email. Y’know once I get a drug counselor. And I could say how I’m doing and what Electronic music stuff I’m working on?”
I’m very confused why it’s weird for me to contact his counselor for him. This is pretty much our job description.

“Um sure. But you’ll have to find that counselor first, eh”
“well ya, I mean like, y’know when I’m living somewhere else and I can tell you about new apps I’m doing music on and whatever, and tell you that I’m doing good.”
Somehow I’m still thinking he wants me to be contacting his counselor for him during the pandemic.
“Yah of course!” And I babble some other random unmemorable stuff about compassion and who knows what.
“Cool. I just didn’t want it to be weird. I didn’t want you to think I’m hitting on you or some creepy s*** like that.”

OH!!!! I finally get it. Stupid me.
“YES! NO! Of course not! No, that would be awesome!”

I’m really not sure who is more embarrassed by this totally communication-challenged conversation. Regardless, I can’t help but feel honored by the idea that someone who barely communicates with their own family would choose to share their future accomplishments with me.

As I bike home in the dark of night, I hear a still small voice:
Google maps seems more reliable than what I think I hear, and it says the next street is faster. I keep biking. When I reach my intended turn I am met with Montreal’s most familiar site: “route barrée”
The bike path has just been repaved.

“Sorry God” I laugh, as I turn back the way I came.
he replies

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