The Charlie Bravo Story


Years ago, I had a dream; well, not really a dream, much more like a nightmare. In this dream, I found myself wandering freely about in an insane asylum straight out of the 1920’s, or at least how I envision such a place; creeping kudzu covering the exterior walls, Linoleum floors curled by the smell of urine, flickering, underpowered, incandescent lights, and everywhere the mentally and physically afflicted. Some were shuffling about in a thorazine stupor, the more violent inmates actually restrained to the walls and beds by strait jackets and leather straps. The shadowy guards in attendance weren’t hindering me from interacting with any of the inmates, but I somehow knew that it would be best if I didn’t free anyone from their shackles lest I find myself joining their ranks.
But I felt I had to do something, anything, to improve the horrible situation, but had absolutely no idea what to do; what did they eat or drink? And where was I to find it? And as the place was absolutely full, how was I as only one person to care for such a large number of those afflicted?
I remember the anxiety level ratcheting upwards with feelings of inadequacy when I saw the most pitiful case yet; a small man was strapped to a green vinyl hospital gurney. He was deaf and mute, and one of his arms was absolutely infested with all manner of corruption; boils, maggots, cankers, I can’t even begin to describe how horrible it really was. His eyes were filled with terror as I approached, as if worried what I was going to do to increase his suffering, poke and prod at him, ridicule him, whatever.
As I stood beside his bed in a total quandary as to what to do to alleviate the man’s suffering, something in the dream told me to place my hands on his horrible arm; uh, huh, ain’t gonna happen. I absolutely refused to do it, as I could just imagine whatever disease that afflicted him transferring directly to me, and I just wasn’t going to let that happen. But there it was again, not a request but a command: put your hands on his arm, so this time I did. And nothing physically changed, he wasn’t healed or anything even remotely like that. But what did change was his countenance, as the terror on his face was replaced by a look of peace; what he needed most was not for food or medicine, but for someone to not be repelled by his condition, and to not be afraid to touch him.
What does this have to do with Charlie Bravo? When Zach and I initially found her crate on the side of the road, she was in a very similar condition as that man in my dream years before: sores, mange, parasites, eyes filled with terror; how was I supposed to deal with this fiasco? Often we have not a clue how to address a particular issue, the only weapon in our arsenal is a willingness to touch it, and that’s often a pretty scary option.
Now, the rest of the story, lest anyone think that I’m implying something that I’m not. A random stranger and I were recently involved in helping a similar seemingly hopeless case, and my old dream became part of the conversation. She was of a school of thought that believed that every entity in a dream is a personification of the one having the dream. If this is the case, I was not just the man wandering through the asylum in an attempt to make a difference; I also was one of the monsters and the freaks, one of the ominous guards, even the pathetic man laying on the gurney craving compassion; sometimes, the greatest ability is simply availability and the willingness to get involved.
We be of one blood, ye and I.

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