tWe were dodging traffic so we got off the expressway. I believe everything happens for a reason. Neil was sitting under the viaduct as I got off the expressway on a route that I've never taken before. He had a sign that said something about his kidneys and he wasn't walking up and down thru traffic. He was just waiting patiently for anyone to notice him. I gave him some change and one of the fortune cookies I had. He graciously thanked me and I drove away as the light turned green and there was traffic behind me.
I wondered what his sign said and thought "I wish we could help more, but what can we do?" Michael (my son) and I talked about this for a few minutes.
A few minutes later, I ate my fortune cookie as I'm driving the rest of the way home. When I read the fortune, I decided I had to turn around. My fortune said, "Ignorance will not answer unsettled questions". (Everything for a reason)
We went back a few miles having to retrace where we saw him. Thankfully, Michael had pinpointed the spot on the GPS because we had been talking about him. (Everything for a reason)
As I passed him this time, I asked if he'd like to go grab a bite. He accepted with a gracious thank you and we drove to a nearby restaurant. He shared with me his story while we waited for our food after I properly introduced myself.
He was very encouraging about what I'm doing as I told him my intention is to set an example for people to support other people in any way they are able.
I told him that while my resources are limited at this time, I wanted to help however I could. He agreed to let me share his story in hopes that you could help me support him.
Neil suffers from an autoimmune disease that affects his kidneys. He currently attends all doctor appointments and takes an immunity suppressant because his body attacks his kidneys. He also takes medication for high blood pressure and a few other prescribed medications. He also deals with edema (his feet, legs and hands swell up retaining water) and other issues related to kidney function, but generally takes pretty good care of himself.
When Neil first got sick, he had a job as a machinist that he loved. Due to his health challenges that, at the time he was unaware of, he missed a lot of work and eventually lost his job. He has held out on applying for disability because he sees this as a temporary situation. He signed over his full custody rights to his mother so she could properly care for his 12 year old daughter, while he gets his life in order again. He does not want to impose any more stress upon his parents, given how supportive they have been even thus far.
Last week, he was given permission from his doctor to return to work. Unfortunately, he has no job to return to. He'd love to land a job at Turn Rite on Lake Street in Chicago as he's already met with someone and knows this would be a perfect fit for his skills and experience, and it's easily accessible by public transportation from the park that he sleeps in. He has a spot near enough to the building so the bricks are warmed by the heat from the building and he uses the blankets he has to protect himself as needed.
All the shelters he has been to have an infestation of body lice and bedbugs. He'd rather sleep outside than to deal with that. He showers several times per week at the shelters and still periodically gets bit, but he's as careful as he can be to keep his clothes uncontaminated. (If something becomes contaminated, he has to throw it away so he doesn't infest the clean clothes he has.
Also, many shelters require him to give up his phone, which he understands that would be appropriate for someone with substance abuse issues or other circumstances, but for him, that would only isolate him from the support that he does have and keep him from being able to talk to his daughter, who he talks to regularly.
He said he doesn't agree with so many people's opinions about Chicagoans being uncaring and cold, considering he lives his life relying on the kindness of strangers, so all he sees is the positive aspects of people.
I gave him a few resources to reach out to for work, at least until he can land the job he wants, and hopefully they can help him get housing and connect him with other resources. His mom is going to send him a phone since he has been denied a government cell phone because he has no permanent address. He was told that a shelter address is not sufficient because their rules state only one government-issued phone per address.
I asked what supplies I might be able to help him with. Life Teaches has been getting some material donations. We just don't have the financial resources yet to help as much as I'd like to. His answer: "Maybe I'll be your success story that'll help get you off the ground." I LOVE his attitude.
I'm reaching out, introducing him to you, with hope that maybe you can help me help him as I can. I will be meeting with him periodically to check in, see how things are going and drop off donations that I have in supplies.
If you want to help, we still need work boots in a size 11 1/2 for when he gets back to work. pants, ideally in a 34 x 34, but a little shorter is ok and he currently doesn't have any hoodies because he had to throw away the few he had.
If you'd like to help in any way, please contact me by emailing support@LifeTeaches.org. Thank you so much for reminding the world that people still care. Let's prove to the naysayers that all hope is not lost. The world is redeemable. Humanity is not lost.
Neil is an example of someone who sometimes feels invisible. We want him to feel seen.
He patiently waits to share his story. Neil deserves to be heard.
Neil has an amazing attitude that, I'm sure, even without my help, he would make something happen because he is one of the lucky ones who has support. Neil deserves to KNOW that HE Matters!