I had a friend when I was CEO of Union Rescue Mission In Los Angeles. He came to the Mission off the street as what we called a Guest. He was as fine a man as I have know. He had gotten messed up in Vietnam and had taken it personally when he ran into the anti war sentiment when he came back to the US. When he came to the Mission he seized on everything The Mission had to offer. He ended up in charge of the chapel at the mission.
The Chapel seated about three hundred men and ran from the street almost to the alley. It was basically open 24/7 except for the three times a day we closed it for cleaning. Near the street at the back of the men there were seats for the women and children. There was an class front room we called the contact office. That was the place where a street person coming in off the street could sign up for a bed and coordinated the services we offered the Guests. The contact office faced the area where the women and children sat so the office could monitor the women and make sure they were not hassled.
Ray was responsible for the chapel. My last day at the mission when I walked through the chapel to leave the building I saw Ray and came over to hug Ray and say goodbye. After the hug Ray looked at me and said “George do you know what I am going to miss when you are gone? Every time I was discouraged are fed up with having to deal with street people you were come marching down the stairs to give me A hug. I often wondered how you knew I needed a Hug.”
I laughed and said every time I came down to give you a hug it was because I was tired and discouraged and your love would brighten me right me up.” Then we both teared up and gave each other another hug. Maybe I could say we gave each other a hold because we hung on to each a bit longer this time.
Ray had a ornery side to him. That made him fun to be around. One time I was sitting in my office thinking about what else we could do to help street people. All of a sudden it hit me that many of the people sitting in the chapel for most of the day were veterans. I ran down stairs and found Ray. Excitedly, I told him we needed to have a representative of the VA available to those seated in the Chapel. Ray smiled at me affectionately, patted me on the head and said “George, we have been doing that for three month’s” and walked away.
The last time I laughed at that memory was when I was typing that a minute ago. Great memory. When I started this post I intended to write about a wonderful Memorial Day that involved Ray. Next time.