Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Use guilt you feel and offer to help

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DEAR MISS LONELYHEARTS: I found a man in my backyard a month ago who was dirty and dishevelled. I thought he was just a bum and kicked him out. He came back three days later, and was out by my garbage cans and I told him to move along or I'd call the police. This time his eyes looked vaguely familiar, but I pushed back that thought. Two weeks later an old high school friend mentioned to me he had a "vagrant" in his backyard, but he didn't kick him out. Instead, he asked him how he was managing. The guy said, "Don't you know who I am?" (He was so bearded and scruffy you couldn't tell.) It turns it was a guy from our class in high school and he was going by homes of old friends, "just hoping" for who knows what. He'd had some mental illness problems, and lost his job. This friend took him in the house, took him to the bathroom for a shower and gave him a clean change of clothes, a warm winter jacket and food, and got in touch with some agencies for him and got him fixed up as best he could. He offered him the phone to call family, and left the room to give him privacy. Why didn't I do that? I feel ashamed. Why didn't this man tell me who he was? Am I so far removed from poverty and bad fortune I have lost my heart and soul? I feel ashamed. Instead of talking to him, I kicked him out. He was not going to harm me, and I knew that. Friends say they understand and they would have done the same thing as I did. But what does that say about us all? -- Privileged Jerk, South End


Dear Privileged: This man didn't tell you who he was because he already saw the rejection in your eyes. People who have never experienced anything close to "the bottom" are less likely to hold out a hand, but let's hope you have learned something from the guilt you are feeling. Start volunteering at one of the places that help the poor and homeless in Winnipeg and talk to your privileged friends and family about your experiences there. It will be window to a world they need to understand co-exists with the one they live in, and show them they are not so far apart they can't help out. Donations of their big money could be helpful too, but make sure you offer to help in person. You need to do that.


Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: The woman called Always Close to Tears, whose father is terminally ill, is indeed grieving and she needs someone to talk to. More importantly, she needs someone who will listen. Most people "move away" or try to change the subject because they don't know what to say. I suggest she contact the wonderful staff and volunteers at Hospice & Palliative Care Manitoba, . They will connect her with a volunteer who will acknowledge her grief, do a lot of listening and help her move through it. Not get over it -- move through it. It's also important that she needs to be able to talk to her father, tell him she loves him, will always remember him and be able to say goodbye to him. That's a tough call if she doesn't have a handle on her own grief. Again, the volunteers at Hospice will help. I also recommend another website , a discussion forum, books, questions answered by professionals, life stories. My heart goes out to her. -- A Volunteer, Hospice & Palliative Care, Manitoba


Dear Volunteer: I got to say goodbye to my dad some weeks before he died and he told me not to worry about him, that he was going to a good place. I got to cry and tell him I loved him and didn't want him to die, and I would miss him so. Being able to speak about the upcoming death, express feelings and shed some tears together helped quite a bit.


Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: The husband of the woman called Scared, whose husband will not get seen about his life-threatening sleep apnea, may benefit more from a dentist than a doctor. My husband got a custom-made mouthguard that holds his jaw forward at night so he breathes easily and doesn't snore. He says it's comfortable, and we both sleep a lot better. -- Peaceful Sleeps, Winnipeg


Dear Peaceful: Thanks for that additional suggestion. All avenues need to be checked out with a life-threatening condition such as sleep apnea where one stops breathing for varying periods of time while sleeping. But, it's easier for the wife to trick her husband into seeing the physician first by taking him to her medical appointment, as he has NO intention of going for help anywhere.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 10, 2012 G10

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