God doesn't count us, he calls us by name. Arithmetic is not his focus.
He didn't smell good. The odor was like an amalgamation of sweat, weed and Bounce dryer sheets. He was in my office for substance use counseling. Heroin. He couldn't make eye contact and he jiggled his leg so forcefully I thought he might fall out of the chair. I felt uncomfortable too. I wanted to get up and run. I longed to open my drawer and spray some Febreeze into the anxiety-packed atmosphere. But as is true with almost anyone, they often just want someone to sit with them. To let them be where they are. I fell still and began to ask short, open-ended questions. "What do you want in life?" "What do you like?" I forgot all the blank lines I needed to fill in for the paperwork.
He told me he used to be thin (couldn't believe he'd gotten to 300 pounds). "Girls liked me," he said. "I even had a really beautiful girlfriend once, and I was in college." Then he said, "I went missing, though, when I got into heroin--it was like the drug was my girlfriend instead of a real woman." Then he said, "That's what I want. I want to find myself again--I want a real life and a family."
At some point he looked at me, and I noted he had expressive, dark brown eyes. Long lashes. His skin was smooth--olive. His hair thick, black as night. I could almost imagine him that thinner version of himself posing in some fashion magazine, hands in a pair of shredded-at-the-knees jeans and giving the camera an edgy look. He told me that he liked You Tube and taught himself myriad skills watching how-to videos. "Oh, yeah, I also want to go back to college--that's really a key for me. I had a four point before I dropped out and began using."
I envisioned that our time together was like him bringing in a envelope of a prized photograph of himself that had been torn to bits. He courageously laid out the fragments, and together we might work on gluing them back.
At the end of our session, this man told me that in his Asian culture, his name means "Happy." I asked him if he knew how his parents had decided on his name. "My dad told me when he saw me as a baby, I was the happiest little person he'd ever seen." There was a pause, and then he smiled. That smile of his. I almost cried. I didn't notice the smell. His teeth white. A radiance.
After he left, I did spray the Febreeze. I prayed too. "God let me remember that people are not just a number, but they are named and precious and deserve to find every piece of their best self."