Having lived in Winnipeg’s inner city for 14 years I have gained a fair bit of “street” wisdom. For example when a woman asks you for the “time” it is simply a precursor to sexual solicitation. Or if a man panhandling on the corner with a sign that says “homeless – please help” it is most likely not true. In fact I kill bed bugs in suites with lots of these cardboard “homeless” signs. As such I have developed a fairly calloused skin to most of these interactions.
Today my “wisdom” failed me. I was asked to address bed bugs in a suite and the tenant clearly had mental health issues. He faded in and out of lucidness constantly. One minute he would be preaching a sermon (a pretty theologically sound one at that) and the next moment he would be swearing and making threatening statements. And then I noticed an entire wall plastered with all manner of hard core pornography and beside it the names of the books of the bible written in meticulous calligraphy. I actually considered rescheduling to avoid a confrontation but I did manage to stick it out and finished the job. It took him an hour to leave the suite but he did leave eventually. Clearly this man had no ulterior motives and was simply ill. His cardboard sign on the couch stating “anything helps – thanks” was entirely true and warranted. A calloused response, as is my custom, would be entirely inappropriate.
This tenant will require a great deal of support to ensure his bed bugs are addressed. Someone will need to help him prepare, do his laundry, and cooperate with protocols. Without support he will be doomed to a life of perpetual bedbugs. I think it is important for decision makers to remember that there are indeed vulnerable folks requiring assistance.
I found it very difficult to listen to /observe the things being said in that suite. But hard is the heart of the person who refuses to help and have compassion. Jesus stated “whatever you have done to the least of these so you have done to me.” Clearly the tenant is in the “least of these” category. Perhaps, despite this tenants jarring words and lifestyle, he will enter heaven ahead of some pastors.