By Susan Steffen-Kraft
The look of shock on his face was one I will never forget. Later when we were both outside he knocked on my car door and asked my name. I told him it was Susan. From that time on we always made small talk. One day he said "You are the only one who talks to me, I guess the others are scared of me!" I was puzzled but did not ask why although I thought he may have believed it was because he was black.
He explained that he did not do much lower body exercises because he had been shot in the lower legs! I asked him why and where! He explained that he had grown up in San Fran in the area where lots of gangs and shootings occurred. Many times it was hard to sleep because you never knew what and when things were going to go down. Nightmares and fear
Then came the kicker. He said he was going to a therapist because of the anger and feelings he sometimes got. That sometimes he felt like going to work and shooting people. And as long as he had these problems he would not marry the gal he was living with. I think he thought I would back up and walk away. Sometimes the girlfriends kids told him he was strange and although they all got along they had their questions!
Was I afraid once I heard that; no! Why should I be. He had been perfectly honest and straightforward. I had one piece of advice for him however. I looked him in the eyes and I said "Mike, you are unique, one of a kind, and special! You are needed and wanted in this world and have something to contribute."
The look of relief that spread over his face was amazing. He said "Thank-You for saying that!" You do not know what that means to me! Next time her kids say I am strange or have problems I will tell them what you said to me.
I could have lectured him about his wanting to shoot people, I could have asked if he had a gun, I could have had nothing more to do with him, and I could have backed away in fear. But that is not what he needed! He needed someone to believe in him and to care. He need encouragement and that despite what he had been through, he was important to this world.
I am grateful I did not grow up the way he had to. But I am not sorry I met him and had this experience. I am glad I could help. I did take note that others started talking to him not to long after I did. I guess they figured out he must not bite and he learned that he could interact with others at the gym with no problem.
I am blessed! I have so many friends from different walks of life!