He stood angrily shouting in the driveway.
Jack had been invited by my friend, Dan, to stay next door. Dan had introduced me to Jack as a guy who was “struggling.” He’d met Jack more than five years ago.
Jack was from a troubled background that paved the way for some very poor choices that led him to a prison term.
Prison broke the already-fragile mental state Jack was in. When he was released from prison, he was homeless. This was when Dan became Jack’s friend.
I was meeting Jack during the marathon of grace Dan had been running with him. It didn’t take long to realize Jack was more than struggling. Jack was psychotic. He talked to me about the spiders who were his friends, and Satan who was his brother. I learned he was medicated by a clinical psychiatrist, but Jack wouldn’t take his medication.
Dan had found Jack a job, but he was fired his first night because he lost his temper when he overheard someone calling another man a name. Dan had asked if Jack could stay just a few days in the cabin near where I live. “He will feel safer here than in town.”
The problem was we didn’t feel safe with Jack. He had knocked on a neighbor’s door asking if he could do odd jobs in exchange for pitching a tent in their backyard. He had almost set fire to a ditch, got into an argument with the local store owner, wandered the quiet country road wielding a hot dog stick like a sword and spent hours outside shouting angry rants into the night.
Jack had brought chaos to our quiet suburban neighborhood, and a little fear. Jack stirred up something in me that I didn’t like. Everything about Jack made me uncomfortable.
And here is where it gets really hard. I’d run a campaign at Communication for Cup of Cold Water Ministries since I returned home from the mission field. The campaign was called Find One. It was all about finding just one homeless person and getting involved in their messy, broken story. The idea being, if all of us found just one, the homeless problem would be solved.
It had sounded so good on paper and preached from a pulpit. But now, seeing Jack yelling wildly from my backyard I began to realize all the implications of finding a one like Jack, and realizing just how many Jacks there were in the homeless community.
“Can I have this shirt? I’ll pay you when I get some money,” Jack had said pointing to my stack of FIND ONE T-shirts I had left in the cabins where he was staying. The irony was not lost on me. Seeing him walk the neighborhood in that shirt felt like a taunt. Jack left this afternoon, and I wish I did not feel such relief. I have so much to learn. Sometimes we grow in tiny increments, other times God gives us a Jack.
• Shari Tvrdik works as director of communication for Cup of Cold Water Ministries. She is author of the book, “One Baby For The World.”