By Mae Lewis
Dad had been missing for over a month.
This is what I knew: 1) He had been homeless for over a year. 2) He was living in a tent in Los Angeles (several states away from any family). 3) He had no phone and there was no way to contact him.
I suspected that Dad was suffering from early dementia or some type of mental illness, and I was extremely concerned for his safety and dreading the call that I knew would inevitably come.
One night in April, I received a phone call at 1 a.m. from Cedar Sinai Emergency. I braced myself. He had been beaten up, but was okay, and was being discharged to go back to this tent. I talked to him briefly. He sounded like he was dying. He said, “Please come get me.”
I was on the other side of the country.
I knew that even if I could manage to make arrangements to fly to LA to get him, I could be too late. Dad had disappeared before, and I had no guarantee that wouldn’t happen again. Time was of the essence if I was going to get him home.
The nurse conveyed detailed directions: “The corner of Durango and Venice Blvd… but not THAT corner…two blocks north of that. Next to the Sprouts, on the right side, there are six tents. His is the green one at the very end by the alley.”
I promised him I would get him on a bus back home.
As soon as I could, I called a contact in Los Angeles. “Dan” had been a friend of my father’s, and he knew the gravity of the situation. He immediately cleared his busy schedule, and then spent the day driving to the “green tent” to find Dad and put him on a Greyhound.
Except when he got to the tent, Dad wasn’t there. This had been my fear. Dan continued to search the area, knowing that his efforts were probably futile. I knew he would give up at a certain point, and I felt defeated. I worried for his safety.
Then my phone rang and a woman spoke. “My name is Susan. I’m at a bus stop on Hollywood Blvd with your dad. He seems confused, but he said he is supposed to be getting on a bus today?”
She explained to me that she had been getting ready to run some errands while her car was in a nearby shop…and had struck up a conversation with my dad. Since he didn’t have a phone, she had kindly placed the call to me.
I was elated and thankful. I told Susan we had been looking for him, and if she could just tell him to STAY THERE, a friend would be along shortly to pick him up. I knew that Dan would make every effort to get to Dad quickly, but Dan was also 45 minutes away. I knew from experience that dad would probably wander off long before Dan got there.
The fear must have been in my voice because she didn’t even pause and said, “You know, I’m not really doing anything important right now. Why don’t I go sit with him until his friend gets there? That way he isn’t alone.”
I cried tears of gratitude. Even as I write this, I am crying with thankfulness over Susan’s small kindness. Susan met a homeless man at a bus stop on Hollywood Blvd. She struck up a conversation, and then placed a phone call for him. Then she sat with him for 45 minutes so that he wouldn’t be alone, or wander off, until someone could bring him home.
Little kindnesses affect other’s lives in ways we can’t possibly comprehend. I pray that God blesses Susan for her small sacrifice that day. Maybe she wanted to do some shopping or visit a nail salon, but her time with my dad that day changed the trajectory of his life.
Dan did get to Dad, Greyhound got him back to his home state, and Dad is getting back on his feet. This story might have had a tragic ending but because of Susan, I can have hope for a better one.
Susan, wherever you are, thank you and God bless you!
By: Mae Lewis