He appeared at my office door, led by a staff member who didn’t know where else to take him. “Malcolm, can you help this gentleman?”
“I will try,” I answered.
“Come in, sit down, tell me what’s going on?” I introduced myself, “My name is Malcolm, what’s yours?”
The six foot tall, 40 year old strong, healthy looking man immediately broke down and began to cry. I handed him a kleenex. “I’m new to Birmingham from south Alabama, just been here about a week. Nobody will help me, I don’t know what to do! I feel awful, my tooth is killing me, I don’t know what to do (he repeated). Nobody cares. I’m HIV positive and I don’t have a doctor here and I don’t know what to do.”
All of a sudden, this 40 year old seemed like a little boy who was lost. He was.
I assured him that I cared, and that many people here would care for him. I asked a few more questions and all he wanted to do is call his grandmother or sister at “home.” He was homesick, and needed to hear a familiar, encouraging voice. So I handed him my cell phone and told him he could call anyone he wanted.
Before long he was talking to his sister. She asked to talk to me and I answered her questions as best I could. I assured her I would help him get a doctor’s appointment for his primary care and our dentist. I gave her my toll-free number and told her to call me anytime if she knew how I could help her brother more.
I called the dental clinic in our building, asked for a special favor, and they worked him in right away. I got an additional form for him to fill out so that he could be seen by our doctors in the coming days or weeks. He saw someone in the waiting room he knew and they talked for awhile. By the time I left him, he was smiling, looking forward to getting his tooth fixed this afternoon.
I wonder how many people feel like nobody cares for them? It’s a terrible feeling to be a stranger in a foreign land. Especially when you are sick and you don’t know where to turn.