For Arnie

It was supposed to be a low key date night. I like dressing up and going out as much as the next girl, but there are times that are draining {see this post} enough that all I want is to throw on jeans and a t-shirt, grab some non-restaurant food, and watch a movie. And so we did.

The plan was to grab some wine in a can, get reindeer hotdogs, and tourist-watch at Peratrovich Park. Tim and I had just finished our dogs and were enjoying the sunshine while deep in conversation when a man with a cane said: "Is that beer you have there?" I told him it was wine, to which he replied two things: He's never seen wine in a can, and he asked if I had an extra one. I happened to have bought 3, so I asked his name as I handed him our last can of wine.

Arnie was born in Bethel, he had been a miner all his life, but through a series of misfortunes that included his home catching on fire, and ending up with a cane through an unrelated incident, he found himself in jail, and homeless as of May. I told him to sit next to me and asked if he was hungry. He replied he's not much of an eating man, but Tim went to get him a reindeer hot dog anyway.

While Tim was gone we had a very pleasant conversation. He asked me about my life, and he told me of all the places he had been to in Alaska. It turns out we both have a soft spot in our hearts for the Southeast, and he said that if I can, I should make my way to Elfin Cove.

I plan to do that.

Soon we were joined by two other people whom he said were his camp mates. "We stick together so we don't get robbed or killed" he said. I shook their hands as they told Arnie they were leaving. Arnie stood up to go as well, but before he could I asked him if I could pray for him. I thanked God for him and for his life, I told him how glad Tim and I were to meet him and to share a meal with him, and I told him how loved he is. He jumped into the prayer and thanked God for us, for a meal, and conversation, and with tears in his eyes he said goodbye.

Now before you judge me and tell me that I enabled a possible alcoholic, let me tell you what I saw. I saw a sad and tired human starved for contact. Real human contact. In his prayer he thanked God for conversation, which tells me it has been a while since someone has seen him not as a dirty, disabled homeless, but just as Arnie, a cool dude with a lot stories and insight on Alaska and mining. So Tim and I chose to give him what we could: A meal, some wine, real talk, and a prayer that with any luck gave him hope.

We aren't saving the world but tonight Arnie gave us a chance to look beyond ourselves and be a little wild with our resources, our love, and our faith. So if you're the praying kind, say a little prayer for Arnie, I know he would really, really love that.

P.S. If you are wondering, that wine is legit.


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