I’ve been trying to get a roof done this week. I contracted with a guy, Greg, from our neighborhood who has cleaned himself up after years of drug use, and he was to have a crew. Turns out his crew ended up being Kevin, a guy I know who currently uses various street drugs off and on.
After 4 days the roof is partially resheeted and partially felted– on one side. Kevin sometimes shows up around noon. Today he didn’t. Yesterday he didn’t show up in the morning, so I ripped off half the roof with Greg. I picked kevin up at his house around noon, got him some food at Burger King and tried to get him going. He lives in a house owned by another landlord that he works for often. The door has no doorknob, and there is a string hanging out that you pull to ring a bell inside. The inside looks more like a barn than a house. Its not finished. Kevin has been doing roofing for 30 years. He showed me paperwork from the 80s and he said he had calculated that he did around 75 roofs that year– he’d had his own business, which is how Greg learned to roof– Kevin had him on his crew back then as a teenager. But when Kevin’s wife had a brain aneurism, he kind of went off, and he’s been in tough shape since.
He can be a wonderfully charming person, and he is bright– bright enough to see the irony of his own situation and his own self-destructiveness. Its fun to talk with him. But he is also prone to sudden outbursts of anger. The drugs have sort of knocked out common self control and he has a hard time keeping his head on straight.
So now as my roof is not very done, and I’m concerned about whether it ever will get finished, I struggle to figure out what to do. Should I shut it down and look for someone else, or spend a lot of time babysitting to make sure Kevin gets the work done we need (when he works, hes capable of 3 other people’s workload). I tend towards the latter. I understand most people wouldn’t put up with this, but somehow putting up with this seems to be part of what it means to help people like this. Most people just wouldn’t bother. But it is messy to get your life involved in their troubles.
Another friend came by today asking about housing. He once lived in our house, but he is slightly unstable and has some anger and other issues which prohibit him from coming back into our house– so I’m trying to figure out how to help him as well. He’s been living on the street for a few weeks. He is from a wealthy family, and he is quite bright. He is an avid piano player and he is just a couple classes away from a science degree. But he has family issues and is estranged from his parents for various reasons. He shared that he had had most of his stuff stolen a week ago and then last night got thumped on the head as he slept in a garage behind a bar downtown where he’d been staying and they took everything else he had– his id, buspass, practice room key (for playing the piano). So as he walked away this morning, he walked away with all he had– nothing (except the pizza I bought him at Godfathers). We may have an apartment on Dewey ready for him soon.
So how do you know when to give, and when not to? This is a difficulty I know many people face all the time, and its hard to stop being gracious (although I suppose for some its hard to start being gracious). When is it help, and when is it enabling?
My solution at the moment is to put my work clothes on and go help Greg for a couple of hourse with lifting sheets onto the roof. Thats probably the best thing I can do to help him out today.
May God have mercy on us all.