Oddballs under a new blue moon

  • September 14, 2023

My mother was a hospital nurse for many years, and she would often regale us with her nursing experiences during the Second World War and beyond. I vividly remember her saying that she dreaded a full moon, since despite scientific evidence to the contrary, it seemed to stir up something within the patients in the psychiatric ward.

“Well,” I thought to myself as I arrived downtown and looked to the sky, “this will be interesting. It’s the second full moon of the month, the so-called ‘blue moon.’ ”

At that moment Jen passed by and said hello. It had been a while since I had seen her, and she was bobbing and weaving as though avoiding imaginary flies. “Are you OK tonight?” I asked.

“Yes, I am great, God looks after us all,” and she took off bobbing and weaving into the distance. It was then that the sirens started.

I am used to police, ambulance and fire vehicles, but from the sound of it there were many of them descending to the street corner where I was standing. Immediately four police cars arrived from opposite directions, some stopping at the intersection and some continuing, only to return again within 30 seconds and pull to a halt beside the others. An ambulance siren followed, and the police officers got out of their vehicles and marched across the road into a church, which harbours many of the homeless. I rounded a corner only to be confronted by two more police vehicles. An officer  talking to residents of the houses said: “We’re from 51 division, just call us if there are problems.”

“Nothing to see here,” I thought and continued to a meeting with one of the ladies I see every week. Regular readers may remember this lady who ignored me for about a year, but now greets me with a large smile. We caught up on how she is, and once again she was more talkative and revealed more about herself and her life, which is a sign she is starting to trust me.

I told her I am always worried about her since she is one of the ladies who will get into a stranger’s car and drive off to complete negotiations. She assured me she is safe, and I told her that I pray for her safety every week. I then took the risk of asking her if she prayed. She nodded and said that she would pray for my safety. As I left her, I heard a bang in the distance, perhaps gunfire, perhaps not, but it was certainly followed soon after with the distant sound of approaching police and ambulance sirens.

The people I meet each week are in various stages of their addiction, and the lady I went to meet next “lives” in a doorway with her total possessions scattered around. I have mentioned her before as the one who was sober for a while but lapsed back into addiction many months ago when her son was taken from her. I have seen many at this stage of addiction, and the recoveries I have witnessed over time, sometimes a long time, give me great hope. She is genuinely a good person who needs someone to continue to believe in her and walk with her on the difficult journey. She asked me for the phone number of a mutual friend that she once used with, and who is now off the street. She wants to try once again to get clean.

As I started home, I passed a group outside a shelter. One man peeled off from the rest as I approached, looked at my clerical collar and smiled. “Would you pray for me?” he asked.

“Sure,” I said, and he walked over to a window and hid his crack pipe behind it. As he bowed his head, I started into a prayer for his safety and recovery. When I had finished he said, “Now I want to pray for you.”

“That would be good,” I said, and to the best of my recollection these were the words he spoke, “Bless this man, white scum of the earth. Let him know you. He thinks he knows you, but he is only pretending. Bless his family that they will know the true God Allah. Father if Ishmel, Satan has him.”

“Perhaps,” I thought to myself on my way home, “there is something in this blue moon thing after all.”   

(Kinghorn is a deacon in the Archdiocese of Toronto.)

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