Larry is homeless. I met him while sitting on a bench waiting for friends in Bay Harbor Park in San Diego. He stood about 5’8” and might have weighed 130 pounds. He appeared clean, but like many without access to dental care, he had very few teeth. He was pushing a baby stroller full of his belongings. The San Diego Symphony was setting up to play music from Fiddler on the Roof in the park. Larry asked me to watch his belongings because he needed to go to the box office.
I waited as Larry walked to the box office and when he returned he handed me a brochure which listed the summer park events. He was excited about the different concerts and his face lit up when he saw fireworks were on the schedule for that evening. He was out of breath and said he needed to sit and catch his breath because he had COPD. It was then he began to share his story with me. He started with “I wasn’t always this way” (referring to his COPD). With tears and broken, breathless words he related his near-death experience.
On May 14, 2016 Larry was asleep and awoke to what he thought was someone kicking him in the back. Only what he felt was not someone kicking him, but someone stabbing him in the back with a butcher knife. A knife that was left in his left arm. By all accounts Larry was left for dead but, for reasons even he cannot explain, he survived.
Larry said he didn’t initially realize he had been stabbed. When the offender left, Larry smoked a cigar. He reached around his back and when he pulled his hand back it was full of blood. That’s when he used his free government cell phone to call 9-1-1.
Larry spent 29 days in the hospital. 29 days. When I told him it sounded like God had a plan for him, Larry’s response was “I’m a living testimony.” Larry was one victim in a series of attacks in San Diego in 2016.
We continued to talk and I learned Larry was a veteran. He said he had built condominiums and office buildings without any injuries. He also appeared to enjoy music.
I do not know how Larry ended up on the streets or why, after being in the hospital, he returned to the streets. What I do know is he appeared to have a joy for life. A joy some people who have much more than Larry never seem to find. Larry did not ask for anything from me, did not appear angry, and did not indulge in self-pity. And when I left, with a smile on his face, he raised his hand in the air and said “Remember the Bee Gees!”