Last month I explained to you about the Veterans Ministry and some of the things that I would be writing about. The following is one of the first calls I received on behalf of this initiative. I think you might be surprised at what the outcome was.
Have you ever found yourself so lost and alone that your insides felt totally empty? You look out before you and all you see is darkness, though perhaps there are many who surround you? You go over and over in your heart and your mind, sure that you had done all the right things—and yet, here you are, alone. “How did I get here?” you ask.
I have a true story to tell: Some weeks ago, I received a message from Pastor Stanton. “Shaz, I have a veteran that has come upon hard times… is there something we can do to assist him ?” I told Pastor that we would see what we could do. I met this veteran in his home; he was sitting alone in the dark. As he comes over to greet me, he has a hard time walking due to arthritis he suffers in both knees. We sit and visit so I can determine what his needs really are. As he tells his story, the tears come trailing down his face. He looks at me in despair, asking these questions of me, “How is it that I served and yet can’t find help when I need it?” “I did what I was supposed to do, thinking someone would be there for me but no one is willing to help.” The tears continue to fall. This veteran is approximately 55 years of age. He had fallen upon hard times, mostly in trying to help others. His apartment rent was behind by several months. The power had been shut off to his apartment. He had some food in the fridge but not ID to go and get more. The apartment manager of the place where this man lived, had the veteran work off what he could by doing physical labor around the complex. He had been painting walls, putting on roofs and doing carpentry work. All hard work and painful because of the arthritis he has in his knees. I moved closer to the veteran and looked him in the eye. My hand rested upon his right arm. These are the words that I spoke wishing to relay the message that he mattered. “Mr. A.”, I said, “Know that you are not alone.” “We will work together to figure these things out.” “You will have a team to get the answers you seek, and WE will do the lifting for a while.” With that, this man collapsed in an uncontrollable cry, not because he suffered but because someone cared. Together we came up with a plan of what we would do. I gave him names and phone numbers of people “who would call him” to help with the rent, to help with the electric bill, to help filling out the forms for his SS disability. By the time I left that day, our veteran was smiling.
I called this man yesterday to follow up on how he was doing. This is the result of our efforts: the veteran’s rent was paid in full through a grant he was eligible for. His power was turned on, and in fact, he now has a new apartment. He has food in his refrigerator and states he has no immediate needs. A social worker is coming to his home to help him with the red tape in applying for his Social Security disability. The one thing we still have to do is obtain his DD214 (discharge papers), which he is trying to receive from Illinois. We will try a second route to obtain that paper which will allow him the benefits he deserves.
This is the Veteran’s Ministry and this is what we do, as best we can. We help people to take a step up and forward in accomplishing their goals. But the real story here is not the things that were accomplished. It is the story of a broken man becoming whole through hope and the knowledge that someone, that many, cared. His dignity was restored. In my experience as a nurse, it is the simple things that make the difference. We are the ones who make things so complicated when reaching out to others can be such a simple thing. It was never meant to be hard. I have made a friend. I’m willing to bet that down the road, he will reach out to others, and it too will be so simple and yet so meaningful.