The Rock

One of the first colder nights in Pittsburgh, I found myself on North Side rounds with Randy and a medical student. It was in the middle of Pirates Post Season hype and the Duck’s presence at Point Park. We encountered only a few clients that evening, but one of our last mad an imprint on my soul. Randy knew he was staying under a bridge, and we went to see him. We called for him with the usual mantra, “Safety Net here, you want to come see us?” He came down from the topmost spot of the embankment. We sat with him a while, talked about his daughter and his recent acquisition of housing. He was waiting on final details patiently on the streets, having spent decades as a rough sleeper in Pittsburgh. One of us expressed concern for his spot because it was literally made of jagged mini boulders. To our concerns he replied, “Listen guys, I am a rock.” Its true. That was all I could think. Everyone who endures homelessness is a rock. He is exemplary in physical survival and mental perseverance.  Regardless of one’s personal burdens of addiction, mental illness or trauma, they are rocks, impressive and stronger than I can ever imagine. I pray though for those who are most vulnerable, weakened by personal burdens and factors far beyond their control. I pray that we are able to make systemic changes to “bridge the gap” of health care institutions and those who need it most. 

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