It's Saturday night of Thanksgiving weekend and most people are reviewing their purchases from this huge shopping weekend, but I'm sad. I just watched the 10 pm news and learned that one of my former coworkers was shot and killed by police on Thanksgiving evening. It's still a developing story but the gist of it is that two women were found dead in a house (Jerry's wife, Loretta, and a teenage girl who was helping her cook Thanksgiving dinner) and when police arrived on scene (they were called to a possible burglary) they shot a man who was firing at them, my friend Jerry. The news pieces report Jerry's financial problem and previous drug conviction, but what they don't report is the beautiful man that I knew from the Habitat for Humanity Kansas City office.
Jerry came to us through a work program of Catholic Charities and his job was cleaning up the offices - mopping floors, cleaning toilets, etc. It wasn't glamorous work but Jerry seemed to like doing it, doing his part to contribute to our mission. He was always smiling and usually whistling or singing a song (often church related), and every time I talked with him he would tell me about his wife, Loretta. They were an aging couple facing some health issues, as most of us will when we get into our mid-60's. They didn't have a lot of money, and I know his salary couldn't have been much through a charity work program, but he was glad to have the job and was doing the best he could with what he had. Perhaps what surprised me the most was learning that Jerry had been on drugs in his past and had spent time in prison. I'm a little embarrassed to admit how naive I am in this regard, but my picture of "felons" and "drug addicts" was generally of angry (possibly dangerous) or depressed people, and Jerry wasn't really either one of those. He was optimistic about things, a spiritual man, and always had kind, encouraging words for everyone.
I don't have any idea what happened Thanksgiving night, and I learned first hand when I was a 911 dispatcher that the news often doesn't get the details correct. I'm not pointing fingers at the media or at the police, but I know that despite what I hear in the news, a good man was lost in addition to the women found dead inside the house. It's been about a year since I worked in the Habitat KC office and I don't know if Jerry was still working there or what else may have changed in his life, but I will remember him singing a song while mopping the floors, smiling and nodding at me as I walked to the other bathroom so as not to walk across where he was working. His was a great spirit and I'm glad I got to know him the little that I did. Rest in peace, my friend, with your Loretta at your side. I pray you have the relief you were looking for.