Fire, Faith & Loss
This past Saturday I walked down to Robert Redmond Park at 2nd & Selden in Detroit’s Cass Corridor.
I started talking to a man named Ken in front of the park. Ken was walking down Selden with a back pack and a tired expression on his face. I asked how he was doing, and he simply said “I’ve had better days.” I understood that saying well, not knowing the reason behind his response. I inquired in the most sincere way I could convey. Ken went on to share a story I wasn’t expecting. Ken’s apartment and everything he owns in it was lost in a fire just a week ago Friday. He explained that his drunk neighbor had accidentally started a fire in the apartment above him. The ceiling then fell in and set fire to his apartment. Ken said, “I was just concerned about getting outta there.” He grabbed what clothes he could find, a bag and his dog came with him. At this point, I could only nod and apologize for his recent tragedy. I asked where his dog is now. Ken said, “He’s at my friends house, ran away twice now because he’s scared of that place, but he’s ok now.” Ken shared how thankful he was, that his girlfriend wasn’t with him that night, and that he’s safe, that his dog’s safe.
He went on to explain the hassle of contacting shelters and help agency’s around the city looking for help. His frustration in a system that expects him to have his I.D birth certificate or social security card before they will help. This man lost all his material possessions a week ago and needs a roof over his head.
The sympathy in my heart, I could only attempt to convey with body language. I asked him, “Do you see God in any of this, and if so…how?” He paused and replied, “Man faith is all I do have now, literally…I have nothing else but these clothes on my back.” I said “And your dog.” We both laughed. For a man that just lost everything he owns, he sounded…thankful for what little he does have.
I asked if he was hanging around the park for awhile to get something to eat. He said, “Yeah, yeah I plan on it.” Before I left the park I waved and smiled at Ken, and he did the same.
If I were that man, would I say the same? Would I remind myself of the faith I have, or focus on what I lost?
– Alexander Tourtillott