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….But he taught me an important lesson

I wrote the following story (with minor edits and photos added) when asked to do a guest post for a friend in April. She believes that there is power in our stories and teaches me everyday how important it is to make a difference through her blog A Year of Making a Difference. Go ahead, have a look, she’s amazing .

I first met William in the early 90’s while I was volunteering at a local coffee-house that served the homeless. William, known as Wild Bill on the streets and for good reason, was one of the most cantankerous individuals you could ever meet.

Portrait of homeless man
Courtesy of Wikipedia

Just to give you an idea of what I mean I once saw him sitting on the steps of First Baptist Church as I was walking down 4th Street. I was still several blocks away when my stomach tightened in knots as I watched a woman riding a bike on the sidewalk approach him.

Because I had met Bill several times before, I knew she was in trouble. My walk became a trot as I silently prayed she would cross the street or turn off in another direction. But she didn’t, she stayed on course, a path that would lead her straight to Bill.

I was too late. As she rode by him, Bill pushed her over on her bike sending her crashing to the sidewalk.

To say that my relationship with Bill had a rocky start is a gross understatement. The first time I met him, I was leaning against the doorpost of the coffee-house watching him walk up the stairs toward me. As he walked in I barely got out a “Hey, how you doing’?” when he shoulder checked me, almost knocking me on my backside.

For some reason, I liked him instantly!

The next three months weren’t much different. Every time I saw him, I’d say hello and my greetings were reciprocated with a blue cloud of cussing and screaming. Finally, one day, I screamed back. “Hey Bill!”

That got his attention.

“Why are you always yelling at me? What the heck have I ever done to you??”

I can only guess that my outburst shocked him. Sheepishly, he hung his head. After a few moments (that felt like an eternity) he responded with, “I don’t know….I guess I just want to reject you before you get a chance to reject me.”

I saw him sitting on the steps of First Baptist Church

Time went by and eventually Bill had disappeared from the landscape. Occasionally I would think of him and wonder what happened to him.

Finally I imagined the worst and presumed he had died.

Flash forward ten years: I was in my office talking to one of my staff when my phone rang. “Diana! There’s a real A-hole at the door who wants to see you now and he won’t take NO for an answer,” said the frantic doorman.

My heart went into my throat. Bill – it had to be!

As I approached, Bill was still yelling at the doorman. When I called out to him he stopped dead in his tracks and looked at me; tears streamed down his face as he hugged me and spoke softly into my ear.

You see he came to thank me for never giving up on him. He came to tell me that he now managed a restaurant in Lethbridge. He came to tell me that every night when his shift ends he goes out into the streets with sandwiches for the homeless and tells them that if they ever decide they want to get off the streets, he will help them.

By this point I was crying as well. I told him how very proud of him I was.

And then as quickly as he had arrived, he climbed into his Cadillac and drove off.

Often we don’t know that we’ve made a difference but if my relationship with Wild Bill has taught me anything it’s to never stop trying.

Is there someone who has made a difference in your life?

Have you made a difference in someone else’s life?

I would be honoured if you shared your story with me below.

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