This weekend was an experience I will never forget. It was one of those experiences that shapes you on a fundamental level, that you're sure its repercussions will have numerous effects, ones that you may not even be conscious of yet.
My first and longest best friend since birth flew to LA with her husband, and together, with two other kindred hearts, we went on a mission to find her brother, Spencer. Spencer has been living on the streets of LA for months now, though we did not know this until recently, not until after several scares that led to filing his missing persons report.
The mission was dear to me because of the love I have for my friend, Elyse, and her brother, both of whom I've known my whole life, so I didn't even think twice about what this mission would entail, because love makes you go all in.
Starting early Saturday morning, we headed out to the area where we believed him to be. We parked the car and on foot, traveled through the streets, into alleys, tent cities, and along the railroad tracks asking and looking for Spencer aka “Country.”
We were met with the sad reality of many lives devastated by addiction. But, instead of turning a blind eye, like many of us are used to doing, we walked towards it, going deeper and further each step of the way. Our strength in love and resilience overcame any fears or discomfort on this day.
We spoke to many locals, many of whom were kind and cooperative. None of them asked for anything in return for their guidance. I'm not sure how often worried family members and friends come hollering here, but my guess is not that often, so when the call was heard, they took it seriously. This is a community in and of itself, and many of them look out for one another.
After climbing over a hill on the freeway (!) and coming down off the other side of the train tracks, the next few people, including a helpful mailmain, kept pointing us in the same direction, so we felt like we were on the right path.
Finally, yet only two hours into the journey, a man says, "Oh yeah, he's right around the corner, with the USA hoodie on."
We turned the corner and there he was.
I waved to him and he waved back. As we got closer, he laughed when he saw Elyse, “I thought that was you.” I think he was pretty surprised to see his sister and her posse, knowing she traveled across the country to be there.
He had a camp on the sidewalk with his friend Mike and their dog, Fraggle. We took him back to the car where we had things to give him. We gave Elyse her space to speak to her brother and tell him what she needed. There were lots of tears shed and shared. I had so much emotion witnessing the whole experience.
Spencer was humble and sincere. There was a softness about him, a surrender. He admitted he was tired of living on the street, that he needed motivation to get clean. We offered to help him in any way possible. Elyse left him with a packet of helpful resources as well as loving letters from family and friends who care about him.
The most heart breaking thing is when he said he was "too embarrassed" regarding moving forward.
When we do something we're not proud of, or live a life we're not proud of, there's so much debilitating shame that makes it hard to have hope. And this is why we need each other, to practice strength and resilience when our brothers and sisters may not have it.
This weekend was a reminder of that. We are not separate from each other, no matter how much safer it makes us feel to think so. Separateness is an illusion. Love is the only thing that's real.
As Elyse's husband, Al, said, we all came to him from a place of love. Love, not hate or anger or any other kind of manipulative control tactic, because in situations like these, love is the strongest force. We made sure Spencer knew that. We assured him he was loved. And now we have to have hope.
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