Supper was extremely busy, and the line-up at the counter seemed endless what with more than 200 served. The faces passing by were mostly familiar with a few new ones in the mix as there usually is.
Then all of a sudden a huge grin appeared at the serving counter dressed in work clothes. I knew that grin, but it had been a long time since I had seen it. In our greetings, this smiling 200-pounder stated, “Four years, clean, sober and working for four years; do you believe it?”
My co-worker excitedly said, “I remember driving you to the south end of Red Deer to a job interview, but I heard you did not get that job.”
“Right,” came the reply, “but the next day I got the job I now have; in Drumheller, by the prison, not in it.” This with a chuckle because he had visited that prison before while he was on the street.
This now energetic man went on to say how great it was to be able to wake up with a head not cluttered with drugs. “I don’t even use pot anymore, it just made me dumb, and with the job I have, I need all the head space that I can get.”
“They sent me to do a job in Rimbey, but I had to stop here because I knew I could get a good meal here; I’m glad you’re still here.” He ate his meal, chatted with a few people that he knew, picked up a bag lunch for his midnight shift, and he was gone.
With all of the busyness for the next hour-and-a-half, I never thought too much about it, but after I had a chance to reflect on the day, this sudden appearance painted a picture in my mind; one which we have all seen before in a commercial on TV.
The picture in my mind was the black and white photo of a field of flowers and then all of a sudden, right in the middle, one flower appears in brilliant red; an extremely beautiful contrast in an otherwise fairly non-impressive photo.
Nothing compares, (especially in this line of work), to the joy that one feels at a time like this! One of the comments he made was how he had received help and encouragement from Potters Hands, and how it had given him the push he needed to clean up.
This is not meant to blow our own horn, because many agencies can and do make exactly the same claim; instead it reinforces our endeavours in the commitment we made 17 years ago: “Put your faith and words into action.”
We are reminded many times that we are far from what we could, or should be, and not always the best examples, but with the encouragement, and the donations, and the volunteers we receive every day, we are able to hold fast to the commitment we made to be of at least a little bit of help to anyone who asks for it.
Maybe it is an age thing, but for the life of me, I cannot remember this fellow’s name. It bothers me at times that I can’t remember, but then I feel it’s more important that I remember that I am where I am and do what I am doing.
Usually when people make a change like this fellow did in his life, they don’t always stay in Red Deer; the temptations are too great. We understand that and support their reasoning, but it is an absolute joy to, once in a while, to have — a visitor from the past.
Chris Salomons is kitchen co-ordinator for Potter’s Hands ministry in Red Deer.