Vulnerable by Travis Sharpe

One afternoon last week while on our way to the city dump site to take some medicine to a 9 month old baby, we saw something quite disturbing.

As we drove down the busiest four-lane street in the city, we notice traffic stopped  and something going on in the road. Then, seemingly out of no where, we saw him. A filthy dirty man in a small pair of shorts was scooting across the street on his rear end.

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He was not walking or even attempting to walk. As we were stopped in the traffic, he scooted right by our vehicle using his hands and legs to propel his weak body. He had a cast on one leg and every once in a while he would stop and reach into his shorts to scratch himself.

It was one of the saddest situations I have ever seen and it was immediately obvious that he had more problems than the physical ones that I could see as he crossed the road.

I immediately stopped the van and Kinly and Genevieve jumped out to meet him. (I normally let the Filipino’s who work with me make the first contact. We have found that it works better than when a foreigner who can’t even speak the language approaches them).

They discovered four things right off the bat.

1. He could not, (or maybe would not), speak.

2. He could not walk.

3. He was filthy and obviously hadn’t bathed in days or maybe even weeks.

4. He seemed completely disoriented.

The week before that, we met another man as we were going up and down the streets making visits. This man was sleeping on the shoulder of a city street. It was an awkward place to see someone sleeping so we stopped to investigate.

Once again, what we found was disturbing.

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It was about 6 am when we saw him so we knew he had most likely slept right there throughout the night. We immediately made the following three observations.

1. He was sleeping in a place that you just never see people sleeping. It was in a lane where vehicles pass.

2. He had no cardboard or blanket or anything else for sleeping. It seemed as if he had just stopped right there and curled up to sleep with no thought about it at all.

3. He was filthy dirty and had no shoes, not even flip flops.

There was yet another man that we met last week who was in similar condition. We found him curled up on a concrete porch of a bank sleeping underneath the ATM.

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This man was also extremely filthy, had no flip flops, nothing to sleep on and he looked much worse than the average homeless person you would see on the streets in Bacolod City.

He would not look at us or even act like he was awake. We tried and tried to get him to speak. We asked him if he was hungry and what his name was but we received no reply.

Finally, after 15 minutes of trying to interact with him, we sat a hot cup of soup and some bread down beside him. We drove away, went around the block and drove back by to see if he was up. We found him leaning over eating the soup and bread.

What is vulnerability?

The word vulnerable simply means “capable or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as with a weapon”.

There a different types of vulnerability. For example, one person could be vulnerable to physical abuse or physical harm while another could be vulnerable to thieves who attempt to steal by trickery or deception.

When someone is vulnerable, they are at a higher risk of some type of harm by others or harm by circumstances, such as extreme weather.

Who is vulnerable?

You don’t have to be homeless to be vulnerable. Vulnerability can be found in many places  A senior citizen can be taken advantage of by a crooked contractor or a child can be sexually abused by a relative.

There is no greater picture of vulnerability than that of an unborn child. Sadly, in our world, people who need the most care, are often the targets of the most wrong.

The three people I described in the beginning of this article are definitely vulnerable.

1. Because they were so filthy and had no shoes, they are very likely to be much sicker than the average person living on the streets.

In that shape, bacteria breeds easily and worms easily invade the stomach. They are more than likely very, very sick individuals and they probably don’t even realize it. Because of their limited mental capacity and their poverty, it is doubtful if they ever visit the doctor or get much needed medications.

With no treatment and no medications, simple health issues grow into major medical problems. Sadly, preventable diseases spread easily and can even result in death.

2. Sleeping in the roadway and crossing a busy street on your rear end obviously puts the first two men at risk for physical harm.

After four visits, we have finally learned that the man crossing the street is named Tom. He does not communicate well at all, in fact, he barely speaks. But we did put pieces of words together and, to the best of our understanding, he was run over by a car and that’s why he has the cast on his leg.

3. Each of the men we contacted could not speak well. They might have been afraid, they might have been under the influence of a substance, or, they might have been unable due to a mental or physical handicap.

Either way, they are out in the elements living on the unforgiving city streets where there are people are ready to take advantage of them.

According to the American Psychological Association, homeless persons are two times more likely to suffer with a severe mental illness than the average person. Simply put, there are thousands of people living on the streets of our cities that are not capable of personal responsibility.

They suffer in silence and filth as life passes them by.

Our response to vulnerable people

In the eyes of some, the most vulnerable people of our society are a pestilence. They are viewed as non-contributors and therefore, of no true value.

But in the eyes of God, they have as much value as any other human. God does not weigh the value of a soul based upon their contributions to society but rather on the fact that he created them in his own image.

God is a father to the fatherless, a defender of the weak and a healer of the sick. He is always rooting for the underdog.

Our response to the most vulnerable among us should be based upon God’s view of them, not society’s view.

Because God values all life, we should seek to preserve life. That means things like fighting abortion, healing the wounded, supporting widows, defending little children and sheltering the homeless.

My prayer is that God helps all of us to respond to the needs around us based upon his heartbeat and not our own desires.

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