What I Learned From Eugene
Eugene always wore his navy blue knit cap whether he was indoors or outdoors, and for all the time he lived in my buildings, we had our own special greeting whenever we passed each other. Eugene was a young twenty-something boyishly good-looking man, whose perfect white teeth almost appeared to glow in contrast to his smooth African American skin whenever he smiled. It be- came our tradition that whenever we passed each other, I would affectionately walk up to him, introduce myself and announce, “Hi, I'm from the Civic Improvement Committee and they asked me to do this” and then I would pull his hat down over his face. This never failed to make him laugh, but I never really understood just how much Eugene enjoyed the attention until one very hot summer day, Eugene was walking down the street toward East Samaria and because of the hot sun, his hat was in his back pocket. I happened to be walking toward him almost a block away. As I got about a car length away, it suddenly occurred to him where his hat was, and he quickly snatched it from his back pocket, put it on his head and assumed the big grin. Eugene didn't want to miss out on our greeting and the attention and friendship he felt. Once again I learned some- thing from a seemingly ordinary incident. Those who live with mental illness are almost always aware of their situation and their self-esteem and prospects for real happiness may be near zero. The best gift we can give them is to show them they are worth our attention and our friendship.