If you have lived in Enumclaw very long you have had the privilege of a misty morning. A thick cloud that saturates and fills the town with a quiet calm that seems timeless. The sun, although it is up and shining brightly, cannot pierce the haze that seems to have taken residence. There is an eerie feeling that you are the only one occupying time. That you are held frozen if only for a moment. As the day moves on, the fog fades, leaving only a memory that it was even here.
I use this analogy because it feels like home, it feels like a tangible recollection that people connect with Enumclaw. That we all have the sense of community and can relate to something we have seen. That there is a breath of caring and hope that rivals other towns…humility and love for each other, our common bond, our hometown. But some of us are forgotten.
Personally, I don’t relate Enumclaw to anything but quiet harmony and simplicity. I have never connected our town with poverty, homelessness, violence or addiction. The truth is that I don’t look for these things and often times don’t want to admit they go on around me. These cries for help are in our paper, they show up in our police blotters and obituaries. These are the silent voices for the members of our community that we have lost, the souls we have overlooked in our daily process.
Who are these people? I asked myself this question with hesitation not really wanting to know the answer. It became real as I spoke with some friends of mine that had lost their son to an overdose; he was in his early 20s. As I have been processing this reality, another one was lost to the same drug, heroin. She was also in her early 20s. This truth hurts my father’s heart. Our community is losing its children. I believe I was being shown my answer. I ask myself, what is my part in these stories?
Since these tragic losses, I have tried to open my eyes and look around this place I call home. I found that I have avoided the broken and challenged myself to be different. The lady with her bags roaming the streets. This time I went up and spoke to her with my daughter; we bought her a sandwich. It is very evident that she needs mental help. The man that walks from Enumclaw to Buckley with his bags wouldn’t let me buy him a burger at Wally’s; I believe he was embarrassed. As I listened to his story, he explained that no one had stopped to speak to him in over three months. I felt ashamed, I have looked at him walking ever since I can remember. His story was of pain and loss, a true broken human being. He is homeless. Again, what is my part?
For me, these lost people are like the fog. They are present only briefly and then vanish. They appear in my life as an opportunity, a chance to be a caring citizen. There are so many opportunities when you look; the neighbor next door, the friend we have lost touch with, the troubled kid. Somewhere is a request for our humanity. The truth, we have some heroin addicts living in our community – and some of them are overdosing and dying.
I believe simply, the first step is to be a compassionate human being, to stop ignoring that there are people with problems in our town. To make a choice to be a person of action. My responsibility is to carry a message of hope that there is a solution. To make a commitment to be a part of the process.
What resources does our community offer the homeless? The battered? The addicted. The dying? How can I deliver this message? How can I reach the suffering?
There is a haze that has settled in our town, it has taken residence. Heroin has no boundaries, it is a nondiscriminator. Opiate addiction can touch a stay-at-home mom, a father at work, a sister in college, a son in school. How this defines our community will be shown in our actions.