by Bill Mash
Every community has a Coffee Jim – a person living on the fringe of what society is comfortable to look upon with love and compassion.
Coffee Jim told it like it was – a street-wise codger who didn’t shy away from life’s difficulties that surrounded, and oftentimes engulfed him.“The soul of the street,” says Terry Hogan, aka Coco.
Debra Carey, a longtime friend and homeless advocate adored him. “He was really polite, an old-school type, a road dog, a hobo,” Debra said.
She continues, “He was our elder on the streets. He taught the young travelers how not to trash our town. Pack out what you pack in. He had a soft, gentle voice that was questioning the Lord when we met. The community had so marginalized him that he couldn’t live another winter outside. We helped him get his S.S.I. which he used to purchase a small mobile home. He playfully referred to it as his retirement home.”
Coffee Jim lived in this humble home over two years. Tragically the very thing that provided comfort and safety from decades on the streets engulfed him in flames as he slept. It was the Thanksgiving season, a time to reflect on what we are thankful for in our lives and in our community. At once fitting and ironic.
Debra recalls, “He called me Ma. Every time I dropped him off back at home he knocked on my car before I took off. It was his way of telling me he was thankful for the ride and that he loved me.”
Folks like Coffee Jim rise above hate and miscasting to impart gobs of wisdom and hope using their God given weaknesses and strengths. They leave an imprint a loving eye always sees.