There’s at least one “street uncle” on the downtown streets of Memphis.
I didn’t even know we had one
until “Bobbi,” the young woman who’d been discharged from the crisis stabilization unit a few days before showed me who he was as in “No, not that one…..the one next to him…no, on the next row….the back row, the one in the green jacket with the cowboy hat and the cane!) “Grady” had helped her, she said, shown her where to go for free meals, stayed nearby in the encampment under the overpass to make sure nobody hurt her, and walked her to the Carpenter’s House where homeless people gathered to be transported to one of the churches participating in the Room in the Inn’s program. “Frank,” young, red-faced and dazed from too much alcohol and the grand mal seizure he’d suffered the night before, didn’t stop with telling me how Grady had helped him. He introduced us, even though we didn’t need an introduction. I’d already talked to Grady. What I’d first thought was sunburn and the grime of the streets on his face and hands was actually scarring from a house fire that had left 4th degree burns all over his body. He was three years old when it happened. The fire had also damaged the part of his brain that would surely have enabled him to do more than scrawl a few illegible words after I asked him to write down where he’d been staying so I could try to help him. He’d applied for reinstatement of his disability check, he said, because they’d cut his check off when he was locked up in Arkansas and he’d been on the streets ever since. I didn’t even ask him why he’d been locked up. “Street uncles” come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Is there one on your streets, too?