Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Last Post from Memoirs of Teen Challenge

Teen Challenge, a ministry dear to my heart, ia again featured in this week's blog. I worked in the heart of downtown Phoenix at Phoenix Teen Challenge from 1992 -2011.

There were also three Native American men who frequently dropped into the offices at Teen Challenge – Ralph, Dennis, and Virgil. My friend, Shelley Savage, who also worked there, had warned me, “Don’t give any money to Ralph or Dennis or Virgil no matter what sob story they tell you. They’re nice but they’re alcoholics and use their money for beer.”
            Okay! Well, I haven’t any money to give them anyway.
            I believe one, or perhaps all three, had checked into the program prior to my employment there. I know Virgil had, and Jeff Richards made the mistake of trying to get the street filth showered off of Virgil. Fortunately, Jeff lived to tell about it.
            Sadly, these men’s need for alcohol was stronger than any desire to surrender to Christ. But, for the most part, drunk or sober, they usually stopped by to talk with Jeff Richards, or to ask for food. They could occasionally be belligerent and itching to start trouble, although none of them was ever rude to me. Not even drunk Dennis who wanted to kiss me.
            It took Dennis a few minutes to maneuver himself through my doorway one morning because he was weaving so badly. He almost fell over once he was inside, but managed to grab the small ledge under the sliding window in front of my desk. He steadied himself and grinned. “Good morning,” he mumbled, his alcohol breath sending waves of foul odor over my desk
            “Hey, Dennis! What’s up?”
            “You’re purty.”
            “Uh, okay, thanks!”
            “Give me a kiss!”
            “No, Dennis.”
            “Why? A little kiss won’t hurt. I won’t tell.”
            “No, Dennis.”
            “You’re not married cause you don’t wear a ring, so it’s okay.”
            “I have a fiancĂ©, Dennis, now go away.”
            “Your boyfriend won’t care. Don’t tell him.”  He then puckered his lips and made smacking sounds while he tried to push his upper torso through the window opening.
            “Stop it, Dennis, or I’ll call one of the men to come in here.”
            “Come on, give me some kisses.”
            He was through the window past his shoulders and still wiggling to get in so I pressed the intercom for the living area where the staff member and students were. “Hey, someone, I need help in the front office,” I announced, backing my chair up because Dennis’s hands were reaching for me.
            Ted, one of the male staff, came rushing through the door and into my office. He grabbed Dennis and pulled him out of the window opening. “Leave Leola alone, Dennis. Go on now, get out of here. You’re drunk. You can come back later.”
            Dennis swayed. “I just wanna kiss.”
            Ted grabbed Dennis’s shoulder and pushed him toward the door. Dennis turned and threw a limp punch in Ted’s direction. Faster than I could blink, Ted’s fist shot out and connected with Dennis’s nose.
            Dennis staggered back. He grabbed his nose which was spewing blood. “Ah, Ted, you gave me a bloody nose. What’d ya do that for?”
            Ted’s eyes were wider than mine. “Sorry, man.” He awkwardly patted Dennis’s shoulder. Turning to me, Ted mumbled, “It was a knee-jerk reaction. I should’nt have done that. You got some tissue?”
            I inhaled and handed Ted my box of Kleenex to give Ted. I’m sure somewhere in the Policies and Procedures Manuel for Teen Challenge, what Ted just did was a no-no. Although Dennis continued to stop by, he never tried to kiss me again.
            Happenings like this were the norm, not the exception – not staff members punching people in the nose, but similar things.

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