Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Probably one of the most gruesome bathrooms that I have ever used was also the setting for one of the most compelling stories of heroism that I have ever experienced. It was Aprilish 2004, and I was working a shift at REAME. This meant that I was responsible for the monstrous staff keychain – one central ring filled to capacity with all of these other smaller rings spawning off of it. Needless to say, it didn’t fit in my pocket, so I just carried it around all day in my hands. That wasn’t a problem, except for when, out of dire necessity, I had to use the bathroom. I use the words “out of dire necessity” very deliberately, for the outdoor REAME bathroom was not for the faint of heart. It was a 4’ by 6’ window-less heat-box with a toilet that did not flush. There was a bucket on the floor that was supposed to be filled with water and then emptied into the toilet to flush down any contributions. It was a noble thought, but that bucket never got used. Instead, kids used the toilet until it reached its capacity, and then they started using the floor. There was a ten foot radius of stink that encapsulated that tiny bathroom, warning those that approached of the terror that lurked within. I had to come up with a strategy anytime my bladder felt as if it would give way. First, I would start holding my breath about fifteen feet away. Upon entering, I would secure the staff keychain with my teeth. I would then navigate my way through the mess on the floor by lunging from one clean spot to the next until I reached the toilet. I would urinate (for anything beyond that could wait) and then hightail it out of there, waiting until I was once again outside of the radius of stink to begin inhaling. On this particular day, however, my strategy failed me. I made it successfully through the first few steps. But, when I was standing over the toilet with the keys clasped between my teeth, I ran out of air. I miscalculated the amount that I would need, and I had to inhale. However, I could not bring myself to inhale through the nose. So, I opened my mouth to draw a breath, and with that, the staff keys fell into the murky swamp before me with an eerie silence. I made it back to the group and explained what had happened. The other staff stared at me with a look of horror, knowing the fate that awaited me. I had to go back for those keys. So, I went to my car, fuming with anger and frustration, in frantic search of every plastic bag I could find to aid in this mission. I concocted a plan that involved a wire used to fish the keys out. The other staff gathered around me in effort to console. I was just about to head back in when out of the bathroom came Anderson, one of the kids, with his bare hand held high, clutching the mass of dripping keys. We ran to him - cheering. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I, who had dropped those keys into the toilet, felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude to the one who had fished them out in my place. For the five minutes that it took him to recount that story and the few days that followed, Anderson was my hero.
Anderson now finds himself in a different place. Three years ago, he left REAME and started down the wrong path. This path involved drugs, living in abandoned houses and other questionable activities. When we met up last Friday for the first time since he left, I hardly recognized him. He was filthy and emaciated. Those years of hard living had taken their toll. Now, we find him broken and feeling as if he has nowhere else to turn. Now, he’s the one in need of a hero. Fortunately for him, we know and intend to introduce him to the Hero that he is seeking. Today, we got Anderson into a rehab center that will take six months to complete. We will continue to walk beside him with the hope that when these six months end, he will be able to join us in our house. Please pray for his first 30 days, as we are not permitted to visit him during this time.