NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:
Although I never worked at Food and Shelter, I have had the opportunity to be a “friend” the shelter has served to include sleeping on a cot there on some cold nights last winter.
I met Mike last spring. I listened to him one day out at Andrews Park as he acted out a story akin to the Knights of the Roundtable. Mike was in charge and would direct his knights, often scolding them or laughing at their jokes. His hands and arms would flail about and he would lunge and even hit objects (not people that I ever saw). The sad part is the story never ended for Mike; he never took a bow, curtain call or heard the applause of adoring fans.
Mike never jumped in his tour bus or car and never returned home to his family. Mike had serious problems and did not belong on the street, but he — like many others — was caught in a “no man’s land” right smack in the cusp of the dividing line between church and state.
For some, we remember or learned about the Kennedy administration and the changes that came about because of the inhumane treatment at asylums and other facilities housing the insane and mentally infirm.
The doors were opened and those facilities were closed. Nobody wants a return to a “A One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” era, but maybe a smallish college town in Oklahoma can find some local solutions.
Many churches and Food and Shelter in Norman feed people, give clothes, provide assistance for emergency bills and provide temporary housing for families, but on a cold night, even a sober, somewhat sane man cannot always find a warm place to sleep ... that is a fact.
I’m not advocating, nor am I angry ... I’ve learned to accept things for what they are and I’m truly grateful for my life and for the circumstances that led me to meet Mike. My rock bottom of self-pity and loathing was Mike’s opportunity to teach me how fortunate I really am to have a sound mind and body and to have that in my children as well.
Mike talked to me occasionally ... he liked me, and that made me feel good in a way that is separate and apart from my human instinct and nature.
If I were to advocate in any way on Mike’s behalf, it would be a hope and a prayer that the city elder’s of church and state could accept that there are others like Mike in this town who have fallen through the cracks, are out in the elements and cannot help themselves.
The prayer would carry further in the hope that the massive ecclesiastical, governmental and educational body in this town could put their heads together and, without reference to partisan or denominational differences, find and implement a working solution.