I didn’t know at 8:45 a.m. that I had only about an hour before a thin, sparsely bearded, dark-haired man named David was going to show himself at the church office where I work.
At 8:45 a.m., I was pulling into the parking lot and going through my usual routine. Glad that it was Friday, I thought of how much work I could get done in all those manila folders that lay thick with paper and spreadsheets and names and dates and blah, blah, blah on my desk.
Christi, the financial secretary, came in and we exchanged our pleasantries and talked briefly about an “Ellen” episode she had watched. For a moment, we both shared what many women in our culture probably share: our woman-crushes on Ellen. I only admit one man- crush and that is to Bradley Cooper because of his outstanding portrayal of a bipolar hero in the movie, Silver Linings Playbook.
I wasn’t thinking of Bradley Cooper or Ellen when David arrived. Slightly disheveled he came to the door of my office. On the outside, I assumed – for a moment – that David was one of our volunteers or perhaps a member. He looked a bit scruffy but if you have ever been to our church, you will see a good case of bed-head and ragged clothes everyday: volunteers and parishioners alike.
Suddenly, David began to speak in a high-pressured speech of which I am all too familiar. His first words were: “I’m sorry . . . ” And, then like the manic episode he was in, he could not stop himself.
Here’s a bit of how he sounded: “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I just need some help. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Uhhh . . . sorry.” Picture now, David armed with a folder looking at everything around him: the pictures on the wall, the mailboxes, the floor, and me. His eyes and mind were ablaze. I gently guided him to the wingback chair and asked him to have a seat and told him that everything was okay and that we were going to help him.
“I’m sorry,” he continued, “here is my folder and my prescriptions. I’m sorry. I have a meeting at eleven (it was 9:45 a.m.). I can’t miss it. I need to see my case worker. I don’t . . . I’m sorry.” He looked up and into my eyes and for a moment, I saw myself.
Fifteen years ago, I was having my own manic episode – lack of sleep and work-a-holism had me in the same chair. The worst part of mania is the complete and utter confusion it throws you into. It is like you are outside of your body tethered by an invisible umbilicus and all you want is for your on-fire-and-about-to-explode brain to stop.
David told me he was bipolar and told me he desperately wanted his medication. Between all of the “I’m sorry’s” I knew he was telling me the truth. Our church protocol is to let the priests handle these cases but both were out at a council meeting. It was me and Christi.
“How much do you need?” I asked him quickly.
“Twenty dollars. I just need twenty dollars.” Can you guess what his next words were?
“Hold on,” I said. “Stay here.” I walked into my office and pulled out my wallet. Two fives. I was short ten dollars, short two priests, and looking at my twin from fifteen years ago. It was strange . . . but we all know that this earth plane is one freaked out place sometimes.
I scurried down to Christi’s office. “Do you have any money?” I felt hurried only because I knew how desperate this guy was and how much he knew the medicine was going to help him.
“Yes.” Christi always says yes. “All I have is a ten.”
Thank you, Jesus!
I grabbed it from her. “I owe you!” I said. Christi said not to worry. Christi gets it. After all, she’s straight and has a woman-crush on Ellen.
Quickly, I returned to David. I handed him the twenty dollars. “How can I pay you back?” he asked. I told him not to worry and we walked down the long corridor back to the double-doors. We both walked quickly as we both knew that the sooner he got his medicine, the better he would feel.
I hear you, David.
When we got to the door and after a few more “I’m sorry’s,” David thanked me. I said to him that he had come to the right place. The small church with a big heart – as we sometimes call it.
Then, I said, “God loves you.” I opened the door for him. He stopped and said, “God loves everyone.” He said it clear as a bell. No apologies before, during, or after those three words.
I didn’t show up for David today. David showed up for me. A reminder that no one on this planet is relegated to the margins because of a label or a stigma. Sometimes we push people around in our heads this way – with a label or “that’s not me” . . . but it is you. David is us.
Out of the wound always comes the gift. Wherever David is right now, I know he has swallowed some medicine and is trying desperately to get his life back.
Life is what we all want. Go, David, Go!