“I was on the street, drug addicted, and up to no good,” Denise remembers. “And my son, Stewart, hunted for me until he found me. He got tears in his eyes. And he said, ‘Mama, you have to come home. We need you.’”
Denise shakes her head. “I told him I couldn’t come home. “I’m no good to you, Stewart. I’m no good to anyone.”
Stewart simply looked at her with tears running down his cheeks. “Mama,” he said. “We love you. We need you. All of us need you. You have to come home, Mama. You have to. We can work it out.” Something in his voice broke through the despair she felt about her life. And she went with him.
Since that day, Denise has moved away from drugs and the street, and has become a consistent, mature, and loving mother. In late February of 2003, Denise and her three children moved into the Sylvia Center, then a year later moved to our Leland House Permanent Housing Program.
Stewart has a specialness to him that only took us a few minutes to discover. He is developmentally challenged, yet has an amazing emotional maturity. He is also someone who lights up a room just by entering it.
People who haven’t met Stewart can’t stop smiling when they finally do; the phrase “Everybody love Stewart” is the only way to describe the effect he has on both staff and shelter guests.
One staffer recalls, “Stewart came over to me one June morning with something in his hands. He held out a gold and a bronze medal he had won running at the Special Olympics in Bloomington, Illinois.”
Though Stewart has an enlarged heart, preventing him from playing football, it doesn’t stop him from giving his best when he runs.
And that same energy shows up elsewhere. Stewart is bright, friendly, and outgoing. He wants first of all to know, “How are you feeling?” When he is not asking that, he’s got a sharp eye out for anyone lifting any heavy object. His first question as soon as he spots them, “Can I help?”
Stewart now has a part-time job. But in his off hours his favorite thing is to hangout with Chris Ramsey, Site Manager of CCO.
Chris and Stewart both love baseball, and when the Cubs began giving CCO the leftover vendor meals from Wrigley Field, it became their mutual mission to leap into the old ’94 Dodge Ram van and “go get those Cubbie dogs!” As they pull up to the shelter Stewart hangs out the window, “Hey, man, you want some hotdogs?” Stewart calls from the van. “These are from the Cubs game!”
Stewart’s mother, Denise, sums him up best. “I have medicine I take everyday. And sometimes I forget. But Stewart is always there, asking me how I’m doing, asking me if I remember today to take it.” He seems, she ponders, to think always of her needs.
Maybe that why we all love Stewart… because he’s so good at loving others.
- written by Chris and Sandy Ramsey, December 2004