My office lies somewhat off of the beaten path. So, unless someone has business with my particular department, I don't see many visitors throughout my work day.
Today, as I was working at my desk, I noticed a man pull up on his bike. I vaguely recognized him and thought maybe he was one of our substitute workers bringing in a time sheet.
As he walked into the reception area, he looked at me through my office window and asked if the boss was in. I immediately knew he was not an employee but the face...where did I know him from?
I got up from my desk and walked out of my office to see how I could help this man. As we began speaking, I knew right away that this man had endured some things. You see, not only was his speech slow, deliberate and difficult, but I looked into his eyes. I think you can tell a lot by a persons eyes and what I saw was hopeless desperation.
He began to tell me that he was looking for work and even though he receives disability because of an accident a few years ago, he just wanted someone to give him a chance.
"Ma'am, I..I...I'm a h..hard worker. I c..c..can wash windows, and..and..push a broom. I did janitor...janitor...janitor work. I...(closing his eyes)...made mistakes. But I want to prove myself. I will volunteer. F..f...or a year. Please."
This is how the conversation went for several minutes. This man told me many times he had made mistakes but that he wanted to prove himself. He stumbled over his words, wiped the spit from his mouth and a few times closed his eyes as if willing the thoughts to come, and said, "what's the word I'm looking for..."
It finally dawned on me where I new this man from. Church. And at this point in the conversation, the reality hit me that most people would have judged this person to be mentally unstable or even crazy. But that isn't how I saw him.
He mentioned an accident and his actions were like those of a stroke victim. This man isn't crazy, he is desperate. And falling into hopelessness.
As we talked further, I encouraged him to talk to our Human Resources department.
"I...I...I've d..done that. They..they, w...won't talk to me."
"P..Please, can you t..t..talk to your boss. I..I..I will work hard. I c..c..can do lots of things."
I realized that sending this man elsewhere was not what he wanted. What he wanted was to know that I was going to talk to my 'boss' and put in a good word for him.
He then asked me if he could give me his name and number and would I please, just talk to my boss and put in a good word for him. As I mulled over what to say next, I looked him in the eyes and said, "Yes. I will talk to my boss."
A glimmer of hope crossed his face, and he asked if he could give me his name and telephone number in case we would be willing to hire him to work for us. As I handed him some paper and a pen my heart felt heavy because the reality of the situation was that his hope was very, very temporary because most likely we could do nothing to help him.
Tomorrow, I will talk to my boss because I gave the man my word. What started out as hopelessness and turned into a glimmer of hope will end in one more frustration and perhaps add another notch of desperation to a man who just wants someone to give him a chance.
It seemed to take some time for him to write his name and number on the paper I had given him. As he handed me the paper, he smiled and said, "I'll work hard." I returned the smileand said, "I believe you."
He said 'thank you,' and turned to leave. As I watched him walk out the door I looked down at the paper.
Written below his name were the words,"Please give me a chance."