by Brenna Lakeson
David (name changed for confidentiality) was the first guest I saw on a Wednesday of a hectic week. Our summer interns were scheduled to leave on Friday, and I was bracing myself for a busy season with fewer staff. Because I was absorbed in my own stress, I was unprepared for the cheerful, hopeful voice that responded when I called, “David?” at the intake window.
“Right here!” David met me with a smile and a cast on his right arm.
As we completed his paperwork together, David revealed pieces of his story to me. His partner of 26 years had passed away less than a year ago. After that, his life changed. He never specified what he meant by that, but it was clear that, like many of our guests, David never expected to find himself without a job or a place to live, much less both at the same time. Furthermore, David had recently gotten in a fight, resulting in an injury to the fingers on his right hand. That’s why he had come to see us.
David didn’t have an ID, and, in order to schedule a surgery at Grady, David needed ID. And soon. He told me that if he wasn’t able to have surgery in time, he might have to have his fingers amputated. While amputation is never a first choice for anyone, it would be an especially hard blow to David, who works in Physical Education. He had just recently secured a job as a middle school volleyball coach after a period of unemployment and needed to keep the job in order to gain back the security he once had.
I told David we would do everything we could to get him what he needed in order to get him medical care. I instructed him on how to get a voter picture ID, so that he could at least have something with his name and picture on it. I laid out the steps for him to get a Georgia ID. David looked at me, his eyes full of hope. It was clear that, for the first time in a long time, David was able to see a way out of his current circumstances. He attempted to tell me some more of his story, about his partner, but became too overwhelmed. David choked back tears, thanked me again, and went on his way.
A couple days later, David returned. He had obtained everything he needed to get a new ID and only needed us to issue him a voucher that would allow him to do so for free. He was still concerned, though, about scheduling his surgery. He had had some issues scheduling it at Grady, so we gave him some information about Mercy Care, one of our partner agencies that provides medical care for many of our guests.
David apologized to me for his emotional exit earlier in the week and informed me that he was feeling much better. He hugged me and one of our interns who had assisted him. He left with a smile, feeling even more hopeful about getting the help he needed.
Another week passed, and, during another busy morning, I walked into our waiting area to find David eagerly sitting on the edge of his chair. As soon as he saw me, he sprang out of his chair and handed me an envelope.
“I just came by to say thank you,” he said. “I just scheduled my surgery at Grady. They’re going to be able to save my fingers.”
I told him I was so glad to hear his news. He gave me a hug and went on his way. We opened his gift and inside was a thank you card. “To: Central Outreach Staff,” it read. “God bless you. I appreciate all of you.”
I put the thank you card behind our front desk, so that we can look at it every morning and be reminded that our sometimes simple actions, such as issuing an ID voucher, can provide hope, and even save fingers.