Yesterday I took my daughter and 3 friends into Seattle for a concert.
The concert was scheduled to begin at 8pm. It was general admission seating and a sold-out show. That meant lining up outside the venue hours before the show in order to get a good seat.
Of course it’s December in Seattle which meant constant rain and wind gusts.
We got into the city at 4pm and I got the kids settled outside the venue in the line with water-resistant blankets, ponchos and hot chocolate.
My daughter had put on the Dexcom G5 CGM (continuous glucose monitor) sensor a few hours before and was able to monitor her blood sugar via her iPhone. Thanks Dexcom – what a great advancement in diabetes care!
There was construction happening on the bridge connecting the Eastside with Seattle and I had no intentions of having to sit through the traffic so rather than dropping the kids and returning home I hung out at a shopping mall, had dinner, took in a movie and relaxed in Barnes and Nobel with a coffee and a book.
After a enjoying a salad and some crab fritters in the mall I ventured out onto the Seattle sidewalks to get some shopping done.
Among the many holiday shoppers, families visiting the Nordstrom Santa and riding the carousel, there were many homeless souls holding signs, playing music, and huddled under overhangs for a brief respite from the rain.
I always try to have a few dollars in my outer pockets for those in need. I gave out $7 in my first excursion from the indoor shopping center.
I put the few items I purchased in my van in the parking garage and went to check on the kids. They had been out in the weather for a bit over 2 hours at that point. The so-called ‘water resistant’ blankets were soaked through. The venue doors were due to open in 30 minutes so I collected the sopping wet blankets, gave some reminders to the kids to not accept any food or drink from strangers, always stay together and locate emergency exits before taking their seats.
I avoided asking my daughter about her blood sugar. She had it covered and I wanted her to know I trusted her to manage her diabetes. Still wish I would have asked her to ‘share’ her CGM info via the cloud but alas – she is such an independent soul.
I put the sopping wet blankets in the van and headed up to the theater to watch a movie.
I was actually extremely excited I was going to have the package of Red Vines completely to myself.
I saw the Tom Hanks movie. It was decent albeit a little slow.
After the movie I returned to Barnes and Nobel and purchased a latte from the cafe. The rest of the mall was closed.
It was 9:30pm. The concert only began 1.5 hours earlier and there were two opening acts. I knew it would likely be 10:30 or even 11pm before the concert ended (concert didn’t end until nearly 11:30 btw). Despite the mall being closed the streets were still alive with pedestrians and shoppers enjoying deals at businesses outside the mall.
I meandered up and down the avenue window shopping and people watching. I had finished my coffee but was thirsty due to the copious amounts of popcorn I had enjoyed with my Red Vines. There was a small market open about a block up. I set off to get a soft drink. As I waited for my turn at the cross walk an older black man approached me.
He had a backpack and a number of coats on. He walked with a limp and wore a baseball cap. His beard was graying but well-trimmed. He was an average height with a slight build. His face was friendly but worn.
“Excuse me, I’m a homeless veteran. My blood sugar is low and I was hoping you could help me get some food.”
He had large clear dark brown eyes. I can’t remember if he wore glasses. Weird I would forget if I had to look through glasses to see those bright eyes but I just can’t quite remember. He spoke confidently but with humility. I could sense he didn’t like asking for help but also recognized he needed help.
“I’m sorry, I’ve given out all my cash.”
“But I’m heading up to that market. If you wait here I will come back.”
He walked beside me, other pedestrians parting or moving aside for us as we walked.
I asked him which branch of the service her served in.
He had served for 28 years. He told me of his various deployments, his job in the army when stateside, and the hostile engagement that left him with shrapnel in his right leg and cost him his career in the service. He was given good medical care when he returned from deployment, including rehabilitation services. He still has a good deal of pain. The pain and PTSD lead to substance abuse and ultimately left him homeless at times or struggling to stay a float at other times. He was receiving VA disability assistance due to his combat injuries but he said the government reclassified his disability and reduced his benefits in September. He said the same has happened to many of his VA friends. He still receives medical services at the VA clinic but it can be 3-4 months before he can be seen. He said despite his past substance abuse he had been sober for a long time now. I don’t know what a ‘long time’ is but I remembered thinking – living on the streets, having to ask strangers for help, not knowing where meals would come from or how long his medications would last – to me I would think a day would be a long time. I believed it had been much longer than that for him.
I went into the market alone and purchased my soft drink and took $20 cash back.
I returned to the gentleman and handed him the cash. Instead of walking off he walked me back to Barnes and Nobel. There was a dinner buffet place he planed to go to around the corner.
On the way back I asked him how he was feeling. Was he taking insulin?
I had remembered how he said he felt a low blood sugar. He said he was ok and going to eat. He didn’t take insulin, he used Metformin (an oral medication used by many people with Type 2 diabetes that can help manage blood sugars when used with meal planning). I didn’t ask anything more about his diabetes.
The remainder of the block we chatted about how so many Veterans are forgotten after returning from deployment with service related injuries causing them to be medically discharged. How he wishes more can be done to take care of the soldiers that return home but are less than what they were when they left. I could see so much in this mans eyes. Pain and pride and hope.
Before we parted he held out his hand. A thin yet strong hand with calloused fingers and trimmed nails. He said his name was Kevin. I shook his hand and told him I was Tina. I thanked him for his service to our country and said what a pleasure it was passing the time with him. He did the same and continued walking.
After he left I pondered why this man chose me in the huddle of folks waiting for the cross walk. I hadn’t made eye-contact until he addressed me. Would I have engaged in a conversation with him had he not said diabetes? Other folks had asked me for money after I had exhausted the $7 in my outer pockets but I had just shaken my head and kept walking mumbling an apology that I was out of cash. Why this man?
I’m not a big believer in religion let alone angels, but if I was, I would have thought I had met one.
He may not have meant to leave me with anything but a hand shake and a smile, but he left more.
He left me with humility and gratitude.