Valley Women's Voices: My friend Jack
For background, see the article “Two dimes and a nickel: Cold kills homeless Bitterroot man,” by Perry Backus, in the Nov. 16th Ravalli Republic.
I have read your private messages and emails. You tell me stories of him riding the wrong way in traffic and getting hit by cars. You have described him as having long hair, being unshaved, riding an old blue bike, rude, anti-social, inconsiderate and a thief. Let me tell you about the Jack I knew. My friend Jack had short brown hair. He kept it cut and was always shaved with the razors and shaving cream I gave him. (I give these out to every guest). He rode a new red bike I gave him (donated by Walmart through my partnership with them). He was so happy when I gave him that red bike. We met at the Town Pump next to Super 1, and I told him before I left to make sure his trailer fit on it. The smile across his face as he put it on and it fit warmed my heart. On purpose, I stood there and watched him ride away knowing that pride filled his heart. He had something new. I saw him every two weeks if not every week for over two years. I never saw any marks on him showing any injuries. Every time I saw him, he pretended that his name was someone from the Bible. He would ask if I knew who that was or where in the Bible that person was portrayed. His small Bible was black with the pages showing years of use. I saved it several times from being washed when he was too busy sharing amazing stories instead of cleaning out his pockets. His clothes were clean and tidy. I gave him several pairs of donated jeans and shirts (I offer all my guests donated clothes), and he used the hygiene items I gave him to wash up in several different places. If we had not built up a close friendship, I would not have known he was homeless. Ok, maybe the bike with the trailer would have given me a hint. I was always so impressed by how put-together he was. I never pushed much about his life outside of the laundromat. I keep that attitude with all my guests. If they would like to share, I will listen without an agenda. His kind, positive heart is what drew me in. The trials and tribulations he had to go through every day never came out of his mouth. He shared stories of helping others when they needed help with broken-down bikes, picking up leaves with different “neighbors,” and helping elders carry their laundry in when the load was too heavy for them. His smile — oh that smile! He had and spoke the Word. He probably could recite the Bible front to back. This is the Jack I knew … maybe it is not the same Jack as you. Maybe it is. I am thankful for my friend Jack. I don’t know who was luckier to have the other. I am pretty sure it was me. — Stefani Jackson, Hamilton