As our bus pulled into the parking lot; the sight before us was unmistakable. Much can be said for first impressions, sometimes without uttering a word. Such was the case.
My husband, Dave and I, were on a short-term mission trip in the remote mountains of Jamaica. One of the recommended must-see destinations was the Poor House. While many of us may feel we are in the poor house; this particular one was nothing we could imagine.
Standing in the middle of the drive was a figure in a large ill-fitting pink dress. A lost soul unaware of his own need. Yes, the resident was a male, a large man. My guess is the care-givers did not have clothes to fit his ample size, but for this huge pink dress.
The Poor House is a large facility that is home to the senior citizens and mentally unstable. The average household of Jamaica does not have the means to care for or support these individuals.
Certainly, this greeting would have made an impressive photo to share at home to friends and family of our experience. But I could not bring myself to snap the picture. Beneath the dress was a man, not of sound mind. By design, he was created for a purpose, like we all are. But not to be exploited. Instead, my eyes turned away out of respect.
I had not thought of this moment in years; but in listening to the morning news, it came to mind. Allow me to take a radical turn from the above. Two policemen were shot in the line of duty. It is quickly becoming a daily event. Not to say that is okay. Someone said something like, we are living in an open-air mental asylum.
We hear a lot about gun control, and yes, they are a danger. So are cars if care is not used in driving them, likewise with knives if not used properly. Each of them are capable of killing if misused. It is the heart that is the force behind these potential murder weapons, not the weapon itself.
Right under my nose, with my eyes blinded to what was going on, the mental institutions in America have been closed down. Where did those residents go? It seems they roam our streets. Only God knows for certain.
The average family does not have the means to offer what these institutions did. Behind bars and fences, residents had meals supplied, medical assistance and counseling; there was no access to weapons. The confines of the walls offered safety. As well as the community at large.
I remember those institutions as a foreboding place to visit. My Aunt Geraldine lived in one until her death. As a child, I was not allowed entry, so family met at the courtyard, inside the gates. On a personal note, when she came close to being released, she would act out in some manner, assuring her continued residency. She knew her limitations, that living in the real world was too frightening.
We all are God’s creation and the Good Book shows us what the limitations of mankind look like. Because we were made in his image, I want to get a better handle on how to do life. I’m finding its all there for us to learn.