There is a wonderful and special secret about you. Some day you will discover what it is. Cathy’s mother had said these words to her many years ago. Cathy still wondered about the secret mentioned twenty years ago. She had fallen on hard times and was living in a shelter for the homeless.
She climbed into bed, her long brown hair falling on her shoulders. She slowly closed her eyes, wondering what tomorrow would bring. A loud bang startled her, and she jumped up to see where it came from. The others in the shelter were too frightened to leave their beds.
Cathy walked outside and found an older man lying in the street with blood on his right shoulder. She ran to him, asking if he was all right.
“My shoulder hurts, and the boys who attacked me hit me in my ribs. Why would they do that to me?”
Cathy looked at him with concern and love. .She went inside the shelter and asked to use the phone.
The man at the desk quickly picked up the phone with shaking hands,. “You go ahead and call for help, I’ll stay with him while you’re phoning.”
“Be careful John. The people who did this may still be out there.” Cathy called for the police and an ambulance.
Paramedics arrived and examined the man. One medic approached Cathy. “You saved this man’s life, young lady. Ten more minutes and he wouldn’t have made it. You’re a hero.”
Cathy shrugged. “Oh I just did what my heart told me. I’ve been following my heart my entire life. It comes natural to me, even though I’m not sure when it started.” She went back to bed, thankful that the man would be all right. Cathy decided that she would visit him the following day. As she closed her eyes, she wondered if he had any family.
Tom (another resident) sat down beside Cathy next morning at the breakfast table. “Hey, I heard about the man who was shot last night. You really were something.”
“It was nothing. He just needed a little help.”Cathy went to get a cup of coffee and started to sip it as Tom said
“Some day, you’re going to get hurt helping someone. I worry about you.”He started to put his hand on her shoulder.
Cathy backed away from Tom saying“Oh, I’ll be all right Tom. My heart always guides me.”
Tom had been in the shelter as long as Cathy and was about ten years older.
Although he had been homeless for a year, his self-respect remained intact. He always found a place to bathe, and his hygiene was as good as possible under the circumstances. He was fond of Cathy, but she was so intent on helping others that she never considered having a relationship.
“I’m going to see the man today. Would you like to come along?” Cathy asked as she stood to leave.
“Okay. Let me get my coat and I’ll be right there.”
When they arrived at the hospital, Cathy approached the nurse’s station and asked for the man’s room number.
The nurse studied Cathy’s dirty clothes and messy hair, but she couldn’t ignore the passion and concern shining in her eyes. “Are you a relative of Mr. Johnson?” the nurse asked looking up his room number.
“No, I’m just a friend.”
Tom stepped forward. “Without her help, Mr. Johnson would have died. She saved his life.”
“Oh yes, I remember the ambulance driver explaining how a woman had helped him. I’m sure Mr. Johnson would like to see you. He is still a little sedated, but he is able to have visitors.”
As they went down the hall, Cathy considered what she would say to this stranger. She took a deep breath, tapped on his door, and let her heart lead her. “Hi Mr. Johnson. I met you last night when you were shot. I wondered how you are feeling.”
Mr. Johnson straightened up in bed. “I remember you. I was pretty dazed, but I remember your soothing voice and compassionate eyes. You are truly an angel of mercy. How you had the courage to come out in the street and check on me was incredible. You could have been shot too!”
“Oh, I’m just glad you’re all right. What do your doctors say?”
“They say I was very lucky. My ribs will be sore for a long time, and my arm will need a lot of rehabilitation, but besides that I’m okay. By the way, you don’t have to call me Mr. Johnson. I’m Joe.”
“That’s good news, Joe! Do you have family?” Tom intervened as he sat in a chair near Joe’s bed.
Joe’s face appeared sad, “No, most of my family members have died and the others are located in other states. I live in a senior citizen apartment near the shelter. My dog Charlie lives with me and is great company.”
“Oh, I love dogs too. May I come by and see you from time to time? If you tell me where you live, I’d love to visit. Do you play cards?”
Joe explained where he lived and the best times to come. “Yes, I love cards. He looked at them and smiled “You two make a nice couple.”
Cathy blushed, looked at Tom and smiled. “We’re just good friends.”
Joe looked at both of them sensing something much deeper with their relationship than either of them realized.
“Joe, we should go because I know you need to get some rest. I’ll come by before you’re discharged to see how you are doing.”
As they left, Cathy confided in Tom, “What a wonderful man. He reminds me of my father who died when I was small. He has the same gentleness and love in his voice.”
“Yes, he did seem very caring and grateful to you for saving his life.” Tom chuckled. “That was funny when he thought we made a good couple!”
They both laughed; but, Tom couldn’t help wishing it was true. However, under the circumstances, they had problems just finding food and a place to sleep. There was no guarantee that there would be a bed for them every night at the shelter.
As Cathy signed up for a bed in the shelter that night, she reflected on her meeting Joe. Something about him made her feel cared for. She found that odd since she’d never seen him before. As she thought about Joe, Tom walked in.
“Not bad food at the food bank tonight, right? Ya know, I think I’ll ask them if I can help serve. They’re short on help.” As Tom looked at her, he noticed she seemed down, which was uncharacteristic of Cathy. “What’s up Cathy? You look kind of down?”
“Oh, I was just thinking about Joe and how strange that I feel attracted towards him even though we just met. I think it’s because he reminds me of Dad. I never told you about him, did I?”
“No, you just told me he died when you were young. What happened? You don’t need to tell me if you don’t want to.”
“He was the kindest man you would ever know. I felt so close to him. He called me his little angel. He came to my plays at school and when I sang in the choir. He always kissed me good night. When I was twelve, he was hit by a car. It was at night and there was no one to help him. When an ambulance finally came, it was too late. He had died. I was never able to tell him good-bye or how much I loved him. At his funeral I was too upset to say good-bye. Mom was heartbroken. She told me that my father had trusted her with a secret about me and someday I would know what it was. She said she couldn’t tell me, that I had to find out for myself. I have always wondered about the secret was and when I will find out Now she is gone too.” Cathy looked sad as she remembered how her father died and started to weep.
Tom looked at Cathy lovingly saying. “Cathy I am sure your dad knew you loved him, and. I’m so sorry you were never able to say good-bye. That was only eight years ago. I have an idea. Why don’t we have our own memorial so you can feel closure? I wonder if that’s one of the reasons you want to help others so much since no one was there to help your father. I know how tragic that can be.”
“I never thought of that Tom. You might be right. My dad also would help anyone in need. You would have liked him. It’s the sort of thing our family did. Mom also did a lot of volunteer work and helped out at school. I miss my mom, but when I talk about her it feels as though she is here.. Thank you Tom for listening. Cathy looked at her watch.” Well, I am feeling tired, so guess I better leave. Tom you have been so wonderful to listen to me. I like your idea of the memorial. Let me think about it. See ya in the morning.”
“See ya Cathy. It’s so cool that you let me know more about you. You know I’m always here for you, right?” Tom smiled as he left.
“Yep. You’re the best!” Cathy yelled to him as he walked away.
Later that night Cathy smiled as she went to bed. She thought about Tom and his friendship. She realized he had never told her how he became homeless or if he had family. They’d known each other for over a year and there was so much she didn’t know about him.
That night she dreamt of her mother who had died two years ago of cancer and again wondered about the secret.
A week passed and Cathy decided to visit Joe. She looked forward to seeing him. It was a beautiful day; and thought he might like to go for a walk with her. She arrived at the older adult complex. Wonderful trees grew in front of the well-kept apartments. Colorful flowers dotted the lawn of each brick home. It pleased Cathy that Joe had a nice place to stay. She whistled as she walked up to the door.
She knocked, and when no one answered, yelled, “Joe, are you there? It’s Cathy.” She looked through the front window but didn’t see anyone. She yelled again, “Joe, are you there?”
She wondered if he might be in the complex’s recreation room, but still didn’t find him.. She walked about two blocks and spotted Joe walking his dog.
“Hi Joe. I was wondering where you were.”
“Well, hello there Cathy! I knew you would come to see me. I just knew it! Want to go for a walk with Charlie and me?”
“So is that your dog’s name? He has got to be the cutest cocker spaniel I’ve ever seen.” Cathy petted Charlie, and he greeted her as though she was a long-lost friend. She immediately fell in love with him.
Joe smiled. “He usually isn’t this friendly, but he knows a good person when he sees one.”
They strolled together on the sidewalk, and Cathy felt right at home. Joe’s warm smile went straight to her heart. He was a handsome man with gray hair. He was about five feet, nine inches tall, slender with eyes that looked at you as though you were the only person in the world who mattered to him. Such a rare gift.
“How have you been feeling Joe?” Cathy asked as she observed how carefully he walked.
“Oh, I’m doing all right. My ribs are sore and my arm hurts, but they say it’s healing. It’s harder to heal are my feelings about being attacked. It was a surprise. I was just walking down the street in front of the shelter and boom! Next thing I know, I’m on the ground with a lot of blood on my arm The attackers were kicking me in the stomach. They called me an old man among other things.
“When they heard you coming, they left. I really think they would have killed me if you hadn’t come around the corner. I’m afraid to go out at night now, and even when I’m in my apartment I feel afraid. I just don’t know why they would want to harm me. I didn’t do anything to them.” Joe looked frightened and confused.
“Do the police know who they were? Did you get a chance to see what they looked like?”
“No, I really didn’t get a good look. I think they were young, maybe teenagers. They didn’t actually steal anything. I see no reason for the attack.”
Joe seemed so overwhelmed by the incident, that Cathy wasn’t sure what she could do to help him. They arrived in front of his apartment.
“Ya want to come in Cathy? It’s kind of messy, but you know how men are.”
They both laughed.
As Cathy listened to Joe she sensed an underlying sadness. She wasn’t sure why, so she started asking questions about his life. “Do you have any children?”
Joe abruptly said, “That is a topic I don’t discuss!”
His anger surprised Cathy, and her face warmed with embarrassment. She’d crossed a line that he didn’t want crossed.
Joe looked at her with love and regret. “I am sorry Cathy. Talking about my son is a very painful subject, and I don’t tell many people.”
“No, it’s me Joe. I shouldn’t have asked such a personal question. You are entitled to your privacy. Let’s talk about something else. Why don’t we play cards? I see you have a deck over here.” Cathy started for the cards, but Joe reached out and touched her arm.
“Wait Cathy. You didn’t ask your question out of curiosity, you asked it out of love and an interest in my life. I would like to tell you about my son.”
“Are you sure Joe? I don’t want to bring up bad memories.” She gently touched his shoulder.
“Cathy, my son was a very happy little boy. We used to play games, and I went to all his baseball games. We were very close. He was curious about everything and eager to try new things and experience life. He was very smart and received high grades in school. Unfortunately, his curiosity took a wrong turn when he was fourteen and some of his ‘friends,’ introduced him to illegal drugs. He started with marijuana and worked his way up to harder drugs.
“I was unaware of his drug use. I was clueless about the drug culture and thought his erratic behavior was just a boy growing up. The thought that my son was taking drugs never crossed my mind. One day when I came home from work, I found police cars in front of my house and my son in handcuffs. He cried as they put him in the squad car, and the terror in his eyes broke my heart. I went to my wife almost in a panic and asked her what in the world was going on.
“She explained that he was being taken to jail because he’d been caught using drugs at school. I couldn’t believe it. I was in total denial. I yelled and said that they’d made a mistake, and Bill would never use drugs. We didn’t raise him that way. My wife took me into his room, and under the bed was a box full of illegal drugs. Even then I couldn’t believe it. I said they must be his friend’s drugs. He wouldn’t do this! I kept yelling and had no idea how to handle the situation. I just couldn’t imagine the son I loved and had played with as a young boy being taken to jail for using drugs. It didn’t make sense. I wanted to visit him in jail yet knew I better get a hold of my emotions before seeing him.
“The next day, I talked to his friends and they admitted they had been using drugs for about two years, and Bill seemed to be addicted. I can’t explain the anger, guilt, and sadness I felt. How could I have not noticed? How could I have not seen his addiction? My son was an addict. Hard words for a father to hear, much less understand. I couldn’t imagine the son I loved taking drugs and associating with drug dealers. How could I have let that happen? What kind of a father was I? My only son had been lying to me. Every time he said he was studying with his friends he was using drugs. The money I gave him for lunch or going to the show actually went for drugs. All this time he was asking drug dealers for poison which could kill him. How could I have not seen that? What kind of a father would not see that his son was addicted?”
“Joe, I can’t imagine what that was like for you. Were you able to get help for him and your family?” Cathy was saddened by Joe’s heartache and her eyes welled with tears.
“Yes, we were able to get him on probation since it was his first offense, and we sought drug counseling for the entire family. After six months, Bill seemed to be doing better. He was off drugs and became the son we knew before he took drugs. His grades were much better, and he even made new friends who supported him with his recovery. We thought we were on the way to a better future. Then my wife died in a tragic car accident involving a drunk driver. I was devastated and felt anger towards the man who killed my wife. I complained bitterly about drunk drivers and people addicted to alcohol.
“My son took my comments about people addicted to alcohol personally. He felt guilty about his addiction and even felt some responsibility for his mother’s death. When she died she had been going to pick up snacks for a homecoming party at his school. He blamed himself. The pain was too much for him, and he tried to release it the only way he knew. With drugs. They became his life, and he ran away from home.
“That was ten years ago. I haven’t seen him since then, though I’ve tried everything within my power to find him.” Joe put his face in his hands and cried.
Compassion gripped Cathy’s heart; she felt she had to help in some way. As she hugged him, she asked, “Joe, what was the last lead you had regarding his whereabouts?”
“I showed Bill’s picture to the director of a homeless shelter, and he said he had seen Bill about a week ago, but didn’t know where he was now.”
“I’m going to try and find him for you. He has to know it wasn’t his fault that his mother died, and he needs to know how much you love him. He’s only twenty-six. He has a whole life ahead of him. I’m not going to give up until I find him!” Cathy had a very determined attitude, and Joe looked up with a glimmer of hope.
“Cathy, do you think you can find him? I know he’s the area somewhere. If you get any leads, just let me know and I will do anything I can.” Joe couldn’t believe someone wanted to help him. The police were too swamped to give him much help, so Cathy was a godsend.
“Cathy, what would I do without you? You have the heart of an angel. If you ever need a place to stay, my door is always open.”
“Thank you Joe but I’m pretty independent. I’ll have my own place one day. I’ll pay my own rent, and in some way I will be helping others. I just don’t know when and how that will happen, but I am optimistic.” Cathy’s smile lit up the room as she talked about her future.
Joe couldn’t help laughing. “You are a very special woman Cathy. I don’t know of anyone who has a heart as loving as yours. Jesus is definitely living in you. His light shines within you.” Joe hugged her just as a father might their child.
“Thank you Joe. I don’t really have a religion. I guess I believe in God. Haven’t really thought about it.” Cathy started towards the door. “May I have a picture of Bill? Where is the last homeless shelter you asked? Could you tell me who you talked to?”
Joe gave her all the information he had. He looked at her with gratitude and love. “Someday Cathy you will come to Jesus, and He will let you know how pleased He is and how much He loves you. You will begin to know and love Him. I see it all so clearly.”
Cathy questioned that happening, yet she appreciated his thoughts. “Thank you Joe. I really value the trust you have placed in me. I will try my best.”
Joe looked hopeful. “I know you will Cathy. You really are a gift from Jesus, even if you don’t realize it. See you soon.”
As Cathy left, she wondered how in the world she was going to find Bill. She thought maybe the last homeless shelter where he was seen would be a good place to start. She was on a mission, bound and determined to find Bill. What would she say if she did find him? Oh well, she’d let her heart lead her and sort it out later.