I honestly don’t know what’s going on with Rhonda.
She first started visiting the Outpost last winter. From that first encounter, I’ve never seen or heard her have a coherent conversation with anyone. Some days, she is cordial and polite, says “Good morning” and “Thank you” and appropriate times. Even still, these good days are filled with so many words and phrases from Rhonda that simply do not connect to reality.
There are other days, however, when Rhonda has been drinking or using a substance. These days are rough. She comes into the Outpost and starts yelling and cursing at anyone that moves or speaks. She threatens strangers, accuses friends, and sometimes throws things.
The hardest part of these days is seeing the deep, unspeakable pain present in her eyes. She’s in her 50’s yet has no real life to speak of. Her behavior drives people away and her chaotic mental state makes it nearly impossible for her to keep up with mental health appointments.
One day recently, Rhonda came into the Outpost with alcohol on her breath. She was having one of those days and kept accusing other Outpost visitors of waking her up too early and trying to steal from her. Several times during her raving, she stood up and yelled “Shut up!” at a young woman, disregarding that this young woman was sound asleep on the couch.
I did my best to sit down and engage Rhonda, calm her down, make her laugh, and try to figure out what was going on.
To no avail.
She accused me of undermining my co-worker, Gabe, and made fart noises in my face.
For the most part, I just sat and took the brunt of it. But as she continually returned to screaming and cursing at strangers, I had to ask her to leave.
She cursed me, threw a bag of snacks across the room, and left.
I took a deep breath and looked around the community room. Others were sharing in my sigh of relief.
In reality, everyone in the Outpost understood the situation. They’re used to spending time with those dealing with mental illness and/or substance abuse.
Still, I felt bad about suggesting someone leave, especially someone as vulnerable as Rhonda. So I gathered everyone’s attention and verbally acknowledged what happened.
As I recounted Rhonda’s words and actions, everyone nodded their heads in sympathetic understanding.
I suggested we pray for Rhonda, and the group once again nodded their heads in agreement.
So we all bowed our heads and I prayed for Rhonda. I prayed for healing, clarity of mind, compassion, etc.
A couple of folks in the room loudly sounded their “amens” at the close of the prayer. Then, we all went about our business.
The moral of the story?
Poor and vulnerable people jump at the opportunity to pray for each other, even when the “other” is at her worst.