HER NAME IS VICKY
A few years ago on a searing hot July day, I stepped outside our neighborhood Chinese take-out place after eating lunch, and ran into a dog, who was lying on her side panting with exhaustion in the heat. I looked at the dog –– a beautiful thoroughbred Boxer ––, and talked to her, as though we were already old and dear friends. She had a beatific look in eyes, if such a thing is possible in a dog, and I felt great empathy for her.
Though she was on a leash, I hadn't noticed her companion.
Suddenly a deep, pleasant-sounding masculine voice said very gently, "Her name is Vicky."
One look at the young man was deeply disturbing. He might have been good-looking, but his teeth were all black and brown, his lips terribly dry, his complexion mottled, his eyes sunken in circles of darkened flesh with a haunted look, and his blond hair filthy and stiff with grease. But Vicky obviously adored him, and his devotion to the dog was almost palpable. The bond between them was so obvious –– and so strong –– its beauty was extraordinarily touching.
I talked with him about the dog Vicky, and I could tell from the way he spoke that she was the only reason he had to want to go on living. But Vicky, a retired firehouse dog who'd won several medals during her career, was already 13 years old, and showing signs of exhaustion. They'd already walked several miles across town in that heat to get to the place where I'd met them. It looked as though this story would have no happy ending.
I felt a strong urge to take them home with me and offer them food and shelter, but realized it was impossible, and where could it possibly lead? I felt I shouldn't start something I wouldn't be able to finish.
I offered him money, though I didn't have much on me, but he thanked me and refused very politely. He wanted to find work, he said. He had a brother who was looking door-to-door for work right then, he told me. They both had been living on the street for seven years. He said he was twenty-four, but from the look of him he might have been fifty.
I knew no store or restaurant would allow him to enter with Vicky, so I offered to buy some food for him and the dog, but again he politely refused. He had a sack filled with food for Vicky. She obviously came first,
I asked him if his parents were alive, and couldn't they help him and his brother?
He had a mother, but never had any idea who his father might have been. I asked about the mother, who lived in a trailer. All he said was, "We couldn't Iive with her. Her place is so dirty and full of bugs and garbage the smell would make you sick." She, apparently, was an alcoholic who long ago had given up on life. He felt trying to live with her would be worse than the street, and told me that was why he and his brother had gotten out of there in the first place.
I was practically in tears; I have never felt more helpless –– or more useless –– in my life. There just wasn't anything I could do, so finally I had to leave them there, but the thought of that dear animal, who had such faith in the young man nearly broke my heart, and the thought of those two haunts me to this day.
I never saw them again, so I can only imagine what must have happened. Frankly, I shudder to think how their story must have ended. I suppose if Jesus had met them He would have been able to help them, but it was way beyond my feeble powers to do anything, but feel bad about it.
I still do. I often think of them, and get overcome with that terrible feeling of heartbreak and helplessness. It's not guilt so much as it is sorrow, –– and frustration at being made to feel so helpless and so useless.
Somehow, there MUST be a way to deal humanely with situations like that, but I'm damned if I know what it could be, do you?
It's horrifying to think their story is only one of millions just like it in this the richest and greatest country on God's green earth.
"Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses? ..."
"Is there no MERCY?" is all I can ask.