Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Paul and Stinker

Tonight was the second time I spoke to Paul, the homeless man I met last week. He only sleeps in the place I've met him when it's raining because there's an overhang there. He was still there tonight because it takes his mattress (in the place he normally stays) about three days to dry out. Paul has a big fat cat named Stinker who he loves to death, has read the entire bible dozens of times, and was a Navy Seal in Vietnam. He doesn't drink, doesn't do drugs, doesn't steal, and is incredibly kind and respectful. He is the antithesis of what comes to mind when you think of the homeless.

"I was almost done. I was supposed to be in-country (in Vietnam) for twenty-six more days, then I would have done my time and been done. Then I got the news that my wife and three-month-old son were killed by a drunk driver, and I decided to stay and try my hardest to get killed."

He tried to find the most dangerous places he could as a Navy Seal, then after he was done with that, he intentionally crashed his motorcycle three separate times, trying his hardest to kill himself.

Years later, two more sons from a second marriage died five years apart in the military. One in Afghanistan, one in Kuwait. Paul told me he tried to talk them out of joining.

"I finally decided God wanted me alive when I put the barrel of my .357 magnum in my mouth and pulled the trigger, only to hear it click on a dud round." He told me tonight, "So I took it out of my mouth, aimed it at a hillside in my backyard and fired five shots that all went off without a problem. I put it back in my mouth and tried to use the last round on myself. But it just clicked again. I wasn't supposed to die."

"Why do you think you're still alive?" I asked, sitting next to him and petting Stinker.

"I have no idea." He answered, looking straight into my eyes.

I desperately want to help him answer that question.