He lay in the fetal position in very wet grass. His back lay against a tap in our little local park. Our dog sniffed him curiously.
"Is he breathing?" I asked my husband.
"Mm," he answered affirmatively as he rolled him over.
The smell of liquor enveloped us.
A car pulled up and a slim, worried-looking woman hurried over. She was followed by a pretty teenager. "Thank goodness we've found him," she said. Her hand trembled as she lit a cigarette. "My daughter suggested we try the park. They'd rung from the pub to tell us he'd won a bottle of rum in a raffle and had almost finished it when he left the bar. They took his car keys off him. Whatever can I do now?" She looked so stressed out.
"Do you have anyone at home to help?" my partner asked gently.
"Oh, yes, plenty of people."
"Okay," we said together, "with the four of us, we should be able to get him in the car."
The mother tried to express her gratitude while her daughter looked deeply embarrassed. Perhaps this wasn't the first time she had witnessed such a scene. Was it her father, her uncle? We never found out.
Her mother apologized profusely. She warned us, "He can get violent and his language is usually filthy when he's disturbed." She was right. However, we managed to lay the man along the back seat of her car and after more thanks and apologies, they left us.
We collected our dog from where she was tied to the children's swings and continued walking.
"Sweetheart," I said, "I'm glad I've never seen you like that."
He squeezed my hand. "In my silly youth, I drank a bit, smoked some too, but it's been a long time ago now." He grinned suddenly. "I never spent much on it, though, too mean I reckon."
"Well, I'm glad you were a skinflint. That man is going to feel awful when he wakes up, isn't he?"
"Mm, I imagine so."
"Poor guy," I thought. But then I felt sorrier for the woman. Having been exposed to a drinking problem in my family a long time ago, I knew how devastating it can be. I had managed in the intervening years to avoid being anywhere near liquor, people imbibing it, and the problems it generates; there were too many painful memories!
Someone cared for that man though. The woman, whatever her relationship with him, was clearly relieved when she found him unharmed. She cared enough to search for him and see to his welfare. She must really love him.
Another thought followed, overwhelming in its clarity. God, who cares for us, even in our filthy, drunken condition when we curse at being disturbed in our questionable activities, still loves us . . . however bad we've been. The love is as much for that drunken man as it is for Mother Theresa or you or me. Staggering, isn't it?