I used to enjoy talking to Rick. I had to lean in really close to hear what he said because he spoke so very quietly. He didn't smell all that great, which made leaning in less desirable, but boy, he sure knew a lot about a lot. Every now and then he'd get on a tangent about George Bush, and the CIA, and honestly, I did not know what to do with that. Nonetheless, I felt there was something to it. I think his dad was in the Navy and maybe he was, too. I don't know.
Rick was sick and Rick was homeless. He had a family somewhere. I knew this because his mom came once to try and bring him home. But he found his home. It was at my church, where he greeted me each time I came. One time I greeted him and he asked me who I was. It offended me. Can you believe that? I was offended that after so many years of talking with him, he didn't remember me. This happened one time and it offended me so much, I never sat and spent time talking to him again. Oh, I greeted him, and held the door open, but suddenly, I was blocked.
I usually feel like I'm a pretty good person. Not perfect. Not even great, but good. I may even take pride in it. That's kind of paradoxical, isn't it? Taking pride in my goodness. Right now I just feel like a jerk. A mean, inconsiderate, and cruel jerk.
He had a brain tumor and other assorted tumors, in addition to schizophrenia. Now perhaps I never saw his medical records, but I knew he struggled with his health and mental well-being. I know this. What snapped that made me cut him off? And the biggest irony, as I mentioned before, I only saw him at my church.
The church truly was his home. He was very careful to protect it. He would cover his hand so no one could see the code that lets you in the back door. He would patrol the property and kick out other people who tried to nestle in. He'd join us for coffee and cake on Sundays, and very respectfully excuse himself to go out and have a smoke. He and I used to sit on the sofa, drinking coffee and talking sports.
He used to walk around DC a lot. He made friends with a lot of people. He saved the best things the church gave to him to give to others who needed it more than he did. He left what had known and chose to follow his own path and I think that he lived life the way he wanted to, given his circumstances.
Rick died last week. He was in his late 50s. His family took him home to NC where his family, including his two children could memorialize him. They lost him a long time ago, but now they could finally rest, knowing he was not hurting anymore.
His death made me suddenly shine a huge spotlight on how I treat people. It's terrifying. I don't want to be so self-indulgent that I will remove you if you don't make me feel like I'm a good person. It was not his fault that he didn't recognize me. Who knows what was going on that day for him? Just like that guy who cuts me off and follows it up with the middle finger, I don't know his situation.
Today I was in Petsmart with Harms and I asked a lady about her service dog, and she got really upset. It made me feel awful. I didn't mean to offend, and don't know why she reacted that way. But that's the key here, really. I don't know what her circumstances are so I just smiled, told her to have a nice day, and hastily got out of her way.
I'm glad Rick won't suffer any more. I am thankful to him for reminding me that time is fleeting and that each moment is precious (sorry for the cliches). But most of all, that we can't gauge how people are going to react to us, so we just need to do our best to be as good and as happy as we can be, and hope that translates to those around us.
Rick, I am truly sorry for being such an arrogant jackass. I hope heaven is all it's cracked up to be. I sure hope I get to go and be greeted by you there.
* This was Rick's response anytime you'd ask how he was.