Published 12:47 am Sunday, July 10, 2011
By Father Jon Filkins
The “Storm,” as everyone referred to the catastrophe named Hurricane Katrina, had left Joe Boudoin a changed man. No longer gentle, patient and good natured, the impact to his head and the loss of the Ocean Sojourner had changed him. Nobody had the answer why.
Soon after coming to the hospital, Joe left the Emergency Room to disappear on the streets of Houston. Homeless and severely dependent on alcohol, he got into trouble with the local police. After multiple convictions of shoplifting, he was imprisoned for nearly five years.
Released and hardened from his time in prison, he wandered into the Star of Hope Mission and waited patiently in the soup line.
As Joe’s turn came to be served, he held out his bowl to be filled, exposing the tattoo on his forearm. The server recognized the tattoo and took a moment to match the sunken-eyed derelict with the fit roustabout whom he had worked beside five years prior.
In a flash, he made the connection and stammered, “Joe … Joe is that you?!”
Slowly looking up, through bleary, blood-shot eyes, Joe recognized Jake, his old friend and rescuer.
Huddled in the corner of the mission dining room, they talked quietly, Joe wept as he told his old friend about his life after the incident and his time in prison. He wondered if Elaine and his children could ever forgive him. He was at the end of his rope.
Without hesitation, Jake brought Joe home as his guest. On the hour drive to Jake’s home in Baytown, Texas, the two made decisions on what needed to be done to begin righting the wrongs of the last five years.
Upon their arrival, Jake’s first priority was to dial the number belonging to a small white house in Picayune, Miss. After doing so, he handed the handset to Joe saying, “Here … there is someone you need to speak to.”
On the hall table, in the foyer of the small white house, the phone rang. Elaine Boudoin picked up the receiver and answered, “Hello…”