A quick errand (that spanned years)

milk-bottlesIn the midst of baking bread for the next day’s communion service at my church, I realized I didn’t have enough milk. Grabbing my wallet, I walked to my local Jewel grocery store.

After buying what I needed, I stepped onto the sidewalk and started on my three-minute walk home. It was then that I saw him: a man, naggingly familiar, talking on his cell phone.

It finally dawned on me: “Mel?” I inquired. He looked up, his eyes widened, and he quickly told the person on the other end of the line that he would call back later. Mel gave me a huge hug, and then we spent 30 minutes catching up on the past 18 years.

Mel and his dad, a successful businessman, had had a very difficult relationship. In his twenties, Mel chose a path that was different from the one his father wanted for him. Unfortunately, that path led him to the streets and prostitution. During this time, Mel came by Emmaus frequently. He had a daughter, but was in and out of her life. I remember long conversations with Mel, his justifications of life on the streets, and his denial about how that was affecting his health and his family. I remember the inner demons he fought on a daily basis. And I remember that Mel disappeared.

At Emmaus, we do not always get to know what happens to men who disappear. We worry about them, look for them, and pray for them, but we don’t always find them; the uncertainty is painful and frustrating.

Mel is now doing well. He lives in LA, and was just back here briefly to see his dad and help handle his affairs, because his father is dying of brain cancer. Mel told me that when he saw his dad, his father told him, “Now I can let go and be at peace.” Shortly after that he slipped into unconsciousness. He was transferred to hospice two days later.

Tears formed in my eyes as Mel talked about his father and how they have made peace. I could see how good he felt to be here, fully present to his family. In acknowledging what was previously broken in their relationship, and reaching out to his dad in his time of need, Mel allowed healing to happen.

Mel said he looked at our website from time to time. He said, “I think about you guys a lot. Without you I wouldn’t be where I am. Not just because of the services you provided, but because you were my friends when I was a mess. You stuck by me and I knew you were always there for me no matter what.”

He pulled out his phone again and proudly showed me a picture of a beautiful young woman, his adult daughter, who lives here in Chicago and who has also been present for Mel’s father. He said, “I really like who she’s turned out to be.”

I’ve never been more thankful to have run out of milk.

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To provide Christ-centered support to men seeking to escape survival prostitution and embrace a life of health and wholeness.

 

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Emmaus Ministries
4201 N Troy St
Chicago IL 60618

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Wheaton IL 60187-0431

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emmaus@streets.org

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