I'm not proud of this story, but I want to tell it anyway.
Sunday morning, Ben and I went to the park bright and early. I walked and he rode his scooter. We were at the park for about 20 minutes and swinging away merrily when we were approached by a young man.
He looked to be about 18, but I'm not good at judging young peoples' ages any more. He had on jeans, a dark t-shirt, and a black cowboy hat. His mustache was thin, but not to be laughed at.
I think he stood there for a minute before I noticed him. When I did, I said, "Hi...how's it going?" He looked confused for a bit, and said, "Do you have a phone?" I was holding it at the time, so I said, "Obviously I do...how can I help you?" Some sort of dam broke in him and the words spilled out:
"My dad threw me out last night. I've been walking around since then. They're all drunk. I don't know where to go. I get SSI checks. I'm tired."
I asked him if he'd like me to look up the shelter down by the bus station and he said that would be nice. I looked it up and told him the address. It would be a walk of about 2 miles. He straightened up, said thanks, and strode off in the right direction.
When he got to the edge of the park, he paused and looked to be talking to himself. He crossed the street and headed towards some apartments. I lost sight of him. 10 minutes later, he re-emerged and headed in a different direction, moving slowly, like an old man.
I headed home with Ben, knowing that Lovely Wife was preparing a delicious omelet. Later that day, I saw 3 police cars parked at the apartment building the young man visited. I checked the local news a few times, but didn't see anything of interest.
What happened here? I am not sure, but I think I met one of ours, an autistic man, in need of real help and did not provide it. I'm really sorry. In my defense, he was very articulate and made excellent eye contact. When I told him about the shelter, he acted like he knew where the bus station was and seemed quite confident.
It wasn't until he was walking away that my brain processed the "I get SSI checks" comment. Whether he has autism or not, I think that means he has a disability and is 18 or older.
That's the story.
Sorry, kid. I wasn't ready, but now I am. I'll be watching for you.