Whatever Happened to Grady?

I am not sure why, but today I am thinking about a guy named Grady that I met a few years ago. He was homeless living in a tent in some woods in the northwest part of Austin. I met Grady through some friends of mine.

Grady used to stand at the corner of Anderson Mill and 183 with a sign asking for money. That is where my friends met him, because they drove through the intersection often. I feel conflicted and uncomfortable when I pull up to a red light and someone is standing there with a sign asking for money.

Over the years, I have given small amounts of money or food. But at the encouragement of my friends, I sought out Grady to see what else he might need.

The first time I met him he was sitting on a curb under a tree behind a gas station close to the street corner he “worked.” He looked a little concerned when I pulled up, got out, and walked toward him. I introduced myself and told him how I knew his name. Then he relaxed a bit.

I asked if I could sit down for a minute. He agreed, so I pulled up a piece of curb and joined him. And we talked. That’s all.

For about two years I sought Grady out to spend time with him.

Over time I helped Grady with a few physical needs: new glasses (purchased by my friend that introduced me to Grady), updated driver’s license, and a few meals together.

I learned a lot about what life is like for a person who lives on the streets. Here are a few that I learned about Grady:

He lived in fear

I think this is common among people who are homeless. Grady was fearful that someone was going to steal his possessions. He was fearful that the police would arrest him for loitering. He was fearful that he would lose his place to sleep in the woods.

His few possessions were invaluable

On more than one occasion Grady expressed concern over the loss of a backpack or his glasses breaking. Obviously, when a person is homeless they have to keep all of their possessions with them. Either that or find a “safe” place to stash them. I remember buying him a new ball cap one summer. He took his time picking out just the right cap. (I wanted to punch the attendant at the gas station where we bought the cap. He seemed inconvenienced that Grady took his time.)

He considered standing on the corner with a sign his job

This took me by surprise, but it gave me insight into why he did not try harder to find a “real” job. I am not saying that I agreed with him, but he said things like, “I worked for 6 hours today and made $20.” My conclusion is that we all need to feel productive, so we frame our efforts in the best light possible.

His focus was on getting through each day than improving his lifestyle

It took me awhile to understand this. The reason I took him to get a new driver’s license was so he could get a copy of his Social Security card. He had to possess a picture ID before he could get a copy. The Social Security card was so he could get a job. We did all of that, but a few months later he had not done anything else. The reason? The challenges of living each day on the streets.

His biggest need was friendship

Grady was lonely. He always had time to sit and talk. I learned about his past. I learned why he was living on the streets. I found out about a friend who let him shower once a week at his apartment. He told me about his ex-wife and extended family. I listened a lot. Yes, I shared my faith with him. I prayed with him often. But the biggest thing I did was offer my friendship.

Except for the grace of God there go I.

I have not seen Grady for over a year. If you know him and know where he is these day, please let me know. I want to reconnect with him if possible.

 

I am a longtime Austinite. Married my beautiful wife over 25 years ago. Adopted our son September 2012. Currently a writer and loving it. Previous jobs and careers include project management, missionary, and pastor. I enjoy sports (both watching and playing), traveling, reading, digging in dirt and hanging with my friends and family.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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2 thoughts on “Whatever Happened to Grady?

  1. I always try to give a dollar or two to people on street corners begging for money when I see them and have cash on hand. Most days I feel as if I haven’t given enough somehow. Are you familiar with Bernie Glassman and his Bearing Witness Retreats? http://zenpeacemakers.org/bearing-witness-retreats/ The first of these bgan as street retreats where individuals sat and lived amongst the homeless for a week. Some criticize these as, “Sugar for Priveleged Practitioners” http://dangerousharvests.blogspot.com/2011/10/are-bearing-witness-retreats-sugar-for.html
    Remember the Elton John song, Burn Down the Mission if You Want to Stay Alive? Buddhist or Christian, how do we use “skillful means” to connect and communicate without feeding our own egos or force feeding our (supposedly) better life and/or way of doing things (religion, lifestyle, culture, etc) down those others throats?