This is Jeremy. I spotted him as I was driving to this morning’s Hero School Nutrition Interventions.
I had saved him some food, hoping he would still be there after I finished. He had started walking, but my yell and nonverbal’s while driving by were enough to get him to return to the shopping center where I could pull in and intervene.
After a few pattern interrupt questions, I told him I had some food for him. I’m not sure what he expected, but he was genuinely excited about the quotes on the flier from the last Hero School as well as the food I had selected. As a longtime student of Ayurveda, I didn’t find it hard to select an assortment from Albertsons’ offerings that would balance his dosha (mind-body type).
After another look at the flier, Jeremy then said, rather excitedly, that he had attended a Hero School. He then clarified that he observed the class from the back fence in Molasky Park on Veteran’s Day last year.
“You’re the guy that spoke,” he said even more enthusiastically, though I’m getting more depressed, thinking I had clearly failed this young man.
“I got my birth certificate,” he offered, “but I wasn’t able to get my ID.”
Relieved that he got the message, though not the resources, I began outlining exactly what he must do this Tuesday and Wednesday in order to earn his ID by Thursday.
Thank God – and my friends who donate to support these ad hoc strategic interventions – we are able to stretch out this last Hero School into June and reach many of the young people wallowing in homelessness across the valley.
As I detailed the plan, Jeremy began looking fast and furiously through his bags for a pen, to no avail. So I gave him mine and we completed his marching orders.
Playing the role of Drill Sergeant worked so well with the 3 vets I had encountered earlier, I figured, why change now.
Then Jeremy seemed to have a zen-like moment of peace, where he wasn’t like a nervous squirrel collecting and tucking-away nuts, but calm and relaxed. He sat back and looked at his bags, at the food, at the map we drew and at the bus pass, as if he now knew he was going to be out of this life very soon.
Then he said, smiling, “Today is my birthday. I’m 29.”
What are the odds…I still had a cake in the truck from the bakery heroes at Albertson’s.
As I placed the cake in his hands, his face went from disbelief, to awe, to joy, to contented.
“Happy Birthday, Jeremy,” I said.
When I was sure I had his full attention, our moment ended with, “Let’s make sure your 29th year is your best year yet.”