Here's the thing - Eugene wants me to write about him. He tells people that he's on the internet and that I'm "writing a book about him."
I'm not writing a book about Eugene.
But because Eugene and I are friends, I get to see the world...not necessarily as he sees it, but I get to travel some of the road with him. And it continues to change me every single day. I consider myself fairly open minded and aware of how the world really works and I know that things are ugly and life isn't fair...
...but it's different when you walk alongside someone and you experience it with them. There are lots of "holy shit." moments. Like - you know...but you really don't know.
I feel the need to write about Eugene because he is SUCH a cool guy and he is so unfairly judged all of the time. I want you to know him the way that I know him. I want you to know how lucky I am to have him in my life.
So I'll try to honor his desire for me to keep writing about him, my own desire to share our friendship with you, and the need to respect Eugene and his privacy.
A lot has happened over the past month, and I can't share it all with you. But yesterday, these things happened:
Eugene emptied a public garbage can and someone told him that they were going to call the police because they thought he was stealing it.
I empty that can all of the time. No one says a word.
Eugene swept a sidewalk and someone someone told him that they were going to call the police because "I'm scared of you."
I sweep the sidewalk every day. No one says a word.
If the police actually do get called, there is a very real possibility that Eugene will get arrested because the police are used to arresting Eugene and Eugene's history and illness make him uncomfortable when the police are called, and he gets upset, which can be read as combative.
It's an ugly cycle that he's caught in.
So here is what scares me about Eugene: The judgement of other people.
Eugene isn't scary. He just isn't. He doesn't scare me in the slightest bit. I'm alone with him in my bar all of the time when he cleans. He's in my car about twice a week. Sometimes alone. With my purse. He knows where I live. We go to lunch. We walk together. He doesn't scare me. He actually goes out of his way to try and help and protect me. He goes out of his way to take care of other people.
But other people judge Eugene based on the way he looks, smells, talks, walks, the color of his skin, all that is Eugene. And they're scared because Eugene is different. So they judge him and he is once again caught in this ugly cycle.
A friend and I were talking the other day about volunteering and how a lot of people don't volunteer for little things because they want to be a part of something big, instead of these little "mundane" day to day things. Shortly after that conversation, I read an article about how when people give to charity often times they'd rather contribute to buying the new van for the charity then the rolls of toilet paper.
You guys...the little things are so much bigger than we realize. 4 months ago Eugene and I became friends and I went to court with him for the first time. Not because I'm any sort of expert on anything at all, but because I thought he might need a friend, and I think I can at least do that.
My friend Dannette heard about it, so she came too. And then we kept going to court with Eugene and we ran into my friend Jimena. Jimena is an interpreter within the court system, so she's a lot more familiar with it than Dannette and I are. So she helped us navigate things that were extremely confusing, and because of her, we made a lot more progress than we would have made on our own. A few people helped out financially so that Eugene could have some things that make life easier for him. People that I know in the social work field read about Eugene and let us know what other options were available. And once some more people in the community knew that Eugene had a support system, they began to treat him a bit differently. They stopped calling the police all of the time. They stopped calling him "that crazy homeless guy." And today, Eugene is in a much better situation than he was a few months ago. Not because any of us did any great big thing...but because a few people did a bunch of really small things that collectively have had a big impact.
Little things matter.
And here's the other thing. The best thing. At least for me. The other day Eugene told me that I was his best friend. And...I was like, well shit. Because I think Eugene is one of my best friends. I have a lot of really cool people in my life, but there is no one that teaches me how to be a better person than the way Eugene teaches me.
I have learned that I am judgmental in ways that I never believed...and I am learning to put my judgement aside.
I am learning how to truly see people.
I am learning what it means to love with my whole heart.
I am learning how to let go of controlling everything and accept kindness and love and help from others, because I don't know everything and I can't do everything.
I am learning that life is beautiful and mysterious and that everything that I was so sure of is not necessarily the truth and ...
It's the little things, you guys. All of these little things...they add up to so much. And I have been blessed that they have added up to friendships with some of the most amazing people I will ever meet.