Catholic Workers: Cleo’s Story

Yesterday, I was blessed to volunteer at the Catholics Workers. Towards the end of the day, after we had finished serving everyone, I was cleaning up the mess that came with preparing such large amounts of food and thinking how even though I did accomplish a small success today, I couldn't help but think that it just wasn't enough. I helped prepare one meal but what about tomorrow or the next day or a week from now when I'm back in San Antonio? After I finished wiping down the counters, I saw every other job had been taken care of so decided to walk in the garden where some people were still eating their meals and talking. I entered it slowly because I didn't want to sit with a group of people and feel like I was interrupting but I also didn't want to sit next to someone sitting alone (because maybe they wanted it that way).
I looked around the garden and in a garden bench towards the front, I saw a man eating alone with his backpack by his side. I was really nervous he would ask me to leave but decided to at least give it one shot. I asked if I could sit with him and he smiled and agreed. He introduced himself as Cleo.
At first we talked about neutral topics like how we were doing and the weather. I told him how since some of the students I was with were from Ohio and some from Texas and others from Hawaii, that it was interesting to see what we each considered "normal" temperatures. This changed into a conversation about all the places he's been which included Big Bear. He talked about wanting to move to Big Bear because he suffered from asthma and COPD and the air was much cleaner there compared to the polluted air that came with the city life of LA. Being in the health field, I had a natural curiosity to learn more about COPD and its cause. When I asked, he admitted it was because of his lifestyle in his younger years. He smoked cigarettes, cigars, marijuana, and crack. He said he was clean now but since he had smoked for so many years (from 1989-2011) that 3 years after being clean, it caught up to him and he was diagnosed with COPD.
After getting clean he said he was looking into becoming a soldier and was studying for a test and planning on visiting London with his church that was a couple blocks away from the kitchen. He was even able to afford a small apartment that was 9 miles away from the kitchen. He said that he had always had a relationship with God, continually praying and always talking to God even while addicted to drugs. I knew most people that were in the garden around us wouldn't be so lucky and would never escape this life. I told him he was incredibly blessed to have all he did and at that moment he grabbed my hands and said "No, WE are incredibly blessed…Blessed to be having this conversation. The spirit brought us together". He went on to tell me that because he is more stable now, he only comes to the kitchen about once a month to remind himself how far he's come from that point. He also said that for the first time in a long time he had chosen to sit at this bench in the front (he usually sat at one towards the back of the garden). In addition to that I told him that I could've come to Catholic Workers on Thursday instead of today. It just seemed like so many little coincidences led to us meeting each other.
I have never felt like I've had a purpose more than I did at that very moment. He then looked up at the sun and said "Thank ya Lord!" At this point I'm trying to hide that my eyes are tearing up and I'm slightly embarrassed but then I noticed his eyes were also tearing up. And he laughs and says that he couldn't remember the last time he got teary eyed like this besides for the Christmas movies he sometimes sees on TV.
It was so weird to think a conversation that had started about the weather had turned into an hour long conversation that went from us laughing to us crying to us laughing about crying. Before he left (and I'll never forget this) he said "I'm going to remember you for a long time, Roberta".
When I said yes to this LA immersion trip, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  All I knew was that I was going to be coming to this poverty-infested area to serve some of the less fortunate. I came to this city thinking I was here to do my duty for these people because I was fortunate. I thought I was the helper taking his precious time, like a good Samaritan, to do some good. Instead, I was in for a rude awakening. Coming out here I have realized my relationship with God is superficial.

Comments

  1. I was diagnosed of COPD in July 2016. I was on Albuterol Nebs and levalbuterol to ease the situation as i constantly go out of breath when talking or when walking, I was adviced for Lung Volume reduction surgery (LVRS) because my both upper lobes of the lungs were affected, i was making preparation for this surgery when a friend of mine told me about a traditional herbal doctor called doctor Ayes who prepares herbal medicine to cure all kind of diseases including COPD disease, When i contacted Dr Ayes his email and bought the herbal medicine I received the herbal medicine through courier service in 3days, when i received this herbal medicine i used it as prescribed and was totally cured of COPD within 18-20 days of usage, he is able to cure any kinds of disease such as 1. Diarrheal Diseases,2. HERPES 1/2,3. CANCER,4. ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease),5. Herpatitis B,6.chronic pancreatitis,7.Emphysema,8.COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease),9.asthma,10.Acute angle-closure Glaucoma,11.CHRONIC PANCREATITIS,12. Preterm Birth contact Dr Ayes via his email: iraborayes@gmail.com

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