My Name Is Michael &Raquo; Notes To Self By Mark Obrien

Those of you who’ve been to the dance with me likely know of my baby brother, Woody. I’m his legal Guardian and Conservator.

The day before Thanksgiving, he wasn’t feeling well. One of the staff members from his group home took him to the emergency room (ER). His blood pressure was 66/45. He was kept in the ER for a while, hydrated with IV fluids, and sent home. The doctor who called me said Woody would be fine to join us for dinner the next day.

On Thanksgiving morning, my phone rang. It was the Program Manager from Woody’s group home, calling to tell me Woody was on his way to the hospital again. A culture developed from blood he’d had taken the day before revealed a bacterial infection. He was diagnosed with pneumonia, admitted, and kept in the hospital. The following Wednesday, still in the hospital, he was diagnosed with endocarditis, which would require him to be on IV antibiotics for some as-yet-un-determined period of time. So, a week after being admitted to the hospital, he was transferred to a rehab facility in which he’ll be administered the antibiotics and monitored to ensure his endocarditis is on the wane.

My Name Is Michael &Raquo; Woody
Woody, In His Hospital Bed, Rocking His Boston Scally Cap.

But that’s not why we’re here.

Life and Living

My drive from the hospital (and now the rehab center) takes me north on Connecticut Route 9 to the exit for Connecticut Route 372. On Sunday, November 26th, the light at the end of the exit ramp was red. I was the first car in line. A street person stood to my left, holding a sign asking for money.

He looked to be in his mid-30s. He had a reddish beard. Hair of the same color showed from beneath his watch cap. He wore camo army fatigues. I don’t typically acknowledge street people. But recalling some advice from Dennis Pitocco, I rolled down my window.

“Hi,” I said. “What’s your name?”

“My name is Michael.”

“My name is Mark. I’d like you to take this,” I said as I handed him some cash. Then, as the light turned green, I added, “Have a blessed day, and good luck to you.”

When I described the look in that young man’s eyes to Dennis a few days later, he said, “That’s because he knew you’d seen him. You didn’t let him be invisible.”

Sometimes, the things we recognize most clearly are the hardest to see.


When I walked into Woody’s room at the rehab center for the first time last Thursday afternoon, he immediately introduced me to the gentleman in the bed next to his. At least a half-dozen staff members came and went while I was there. Woody introduced me to every one.

Because I tend to be slow on the uptake, it took me a little while to figure this out: Woody would have stopped to talk with Michael without thinking twice about it. Woody would have given him some money. Woody would have kept an eye peeled for the very next Michael he encountered and done exactly the same thing.

Some lessons can be sneaky like that. The most valuable ones are the sneakiest.

It’s time for real stories to be told by the unsheltered and by those who can speak about and for them so we can debunk the myths  “for good”….


My Name Is Michael &Raquo; Full Spine Reduced 500X329 1

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    • Those who are currently unsheltered/homeless, or have been unsheltered/homeless in the past.
    • Have been affected indirectly/a degree removed from being unsheltered/homeless (family members, friends,
      co-workers, etc.).
    • Are familiar with the personal and global effects of the unsheltered/homeless population.
    • Organizations and causes that are on the ground facing daily struggles with those who are unsheltered/homeless and who have stories to tell.

Originally Published on

Mark O'Brien Writer, Blogger

I'm the founder and principal of O'Brien Communications Group ( and the co-founder and President of EinSource ( I'm a lifelong writer. My wife, Anne, and I have two married sons and four grandchildren. I'm having the time of my life.

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