Day 63: Randy Wilson


“Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.”  ― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Dear Randy:

It was a purposeful but relaxing day for me. Many of the guys at my workplace took the day off to volunteer at the homeless shelter. My job was smoking up a chicken dinner for 80 late that afternoon. I love putting on a big feed. It’s long been my therapy.

Halfway through the morning up you walked in starched khakis and a pressed polo shirt. I think you engaged me in some conversation about the grill and just how many chickens it takes to feed 80 people. Most likely, you were an assistant administrator, probably pretty high on the organizational chart, I recall thinking.

We talked all morning and somehow connected well. After the first four hours it seemed the right moment, so I asked. What do you do here, Randy?

“I live here.”

The words echoed. And our conversation moved in a new direction.

screen-shot-2017-03-03-at-6-29-31-amWe sat right there the remainder of the day just talking. A well-educated and successful entomologist for a major farm chemical company, the family legacy made its way into your life two years earlier. Depressed, homeless, and broken, you’d set pride aside because you needed help. The cycle was predictable enough. Sadness. Seclusion. Trouble at work. Hopelessness. Shame. A better day now and then. But the cycle never ended.

“The depression became so bad I couldn’t even force myself to walk to the mailbox.”

You hit home with me on that one. I’d known the very same feeling myself. And so, a friendship was born.

There’s no shame in the need for help. We should all be so real with ourselves each morning as we look in the mirror. Getting help may be the bravest adventure anyone can take.

As you shared your story I remember exactly what you said about the abrupt transition  from successful professional to homeless, and a man in need of help.

“There comes a time when you determine this valley will be your last valley,” you said.

I enjoyed the several visits we shared during the following year. When I called one day, they said you’d moved out, landed a new job, and a place where you could live on your own. I still think of you so often and the great all-day talk we shared.

I hope the shadows have stayed away, Randy, and I hope we might reunite some day. Thank you for your courageous, determined, transparent example. Because, but for the grace of God, your story could belong to anyone.

Your friend,

Steve Watkins

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