You elegantly humanized a couple, Jeff and Kelly, with your kindness over the past few years through your prayers as Marti and I have come alongside in more tangible, but no more important ways than your prayers.
Once a constant presence in Santa Ana, 6’5” Jeff slept in the doorways of public places for at least 6 years, always alone and quiet. People would look through him or beyond him, Jeff would say, but never really saw him. He was a part of the nothingness – and the nothingness became him.
His wife, Kelly, shared his corner of the world for some time. During the day, they sat on park benches, bus benches, and benches on the Civic Center’s Promenade. They rummaged through trash for trade-in cans. They panhandled. When they walked from one place to another, they always looked down. Burdened by bags and backpacks, most of the day they pushed shopping carts spilling over with their memories of another time.
They lived outside because they didn’t qualify for assistance; they say they didn’t qualify for assistance because they were not insane or drunks or addicts.
Living on the streets took its toil on Kelly. She became distressed, resigned and afraid. Aided by extreme previous events in her life, she went deeper and deeper into living a depressed life. That is when Jeff asked us to help him find her a home, which turned out to be motel room converted into a very small apartment, where they could be together and she could rest. She learned to appreciate the kindness as we furnished her home, filled her pantry, purchased new towels and bed clothing.
Kelly accepted help including her treatment for depression. Kelly will rarely smile, but she did begin to trust again, enough to take advantage of consistent compassion that, in my opinion, prevented her from taking her life.
Jeff also received assistance. To begin, he was diagnosed and treated for his mental disorder, schizophrenia. Challenged to find work, he decided he wanted to counsel young people. So he pursued a Bachelor of Arts degree, thanks to a dated laptop computer, he earned his diploma — an amazing accomplishment while living on the streets and in Salvation Army housing. However, even with his degree, his history of schizophrenia blocks all attempts to qualify for a job.
It’s been our joy to be on the giving side of this family. It’s been an honor to have walked along side Jeff and Kelly and given to them when their minimal dollars simply do not stretch any further or when their health was suffering from the years living out under the stars. It has been good to be on the giving side, to be the one who says, “There is more where that came from” and mean it, regardless of the circumstances.
Break away to the present and the many failed attempts and need for our personal funds in between.
While Kelly will never be better, she was growing stronger until recently when an ambulance rushed Jeff and her to the hospital with a soon to be diagnosed life-threatening health issue that required immediate surgery. When Jeff called us around 5:00 that morning, his voice broke and then spilled into tears. He cried uncontrollably. His beloved wife, Kelly was in pre-op with questionable chances of survival.
Finding him in the waiting room alone and pacing back and forth, I went to sit with him for an almost five-hour surgery. Jeff was a wreck. Every few minutes he would get up and pace and wonder why no one was giving him an update on her condition. Kelly is all Jeff has in this life, except maybe Marti and me and a child, Chandler’s age, who lives in the Bay area. They have not seen him in at least 12 years.
I remember praying, “They need mercy — Kelly needs to survive in order for Jeff to live.” That is how much Jeff loves her. Their lives have come to represent to me what we are all about — connecting while under the hardest of circumstances.
He already knew many, many of you were praying for Kelly and him and their tentative living circumstances. But when he learned that Marti had alerted the Catch Ministry Prayer Warriors to beseech the Lord on Kelly’s behalf, he turned from his fear and broke into gracious thanksgiving, calling prayer his first line of defense.
He was indeed comforted by the Lord. He then turned to me — and get this — became concerned about my time, my commitments, and my life. He want to know how I was doing and were Marti and I growing tired of helping Kelly and him with requested funds and needs for help? He wanted to know how he could help us.
It is amazing that Kelly is alive and a tribute to her hardened days on the streets. Jeff was visibly overwhelmed that she survived the 5 hour surgery. The very first thing he did before speaking with the doctors was to ask me to thank you for your prayers.
That’s the thing about giving; it always gives back.