By Kurt Baumann
This is the second in a two-part post about Kurt’s life of prayer. To read the first, click here.
When I was twenty, I was in a hotel room, thinking about how to end my life.
The past hour, that day, I thought about committing suicide. Here I was, living on Welfare and Food stamps, managing to scratch out an existence, not able to face being arrested for a crime that I never committed.
When did it start? When did my problems began to surface? When I was born? When I was picked on and bullied in school? When I was abused by my parents? When I entered the Army and washed out after six weeks? When my mother made it clear that she wasn’t going to support me or couldn’t handle my abusive father, who she divorced and wanted out of her life? When I literally ran away from my abusive father who was going to hurt me because I caused a farming accident?
During this time, I was going through what I refer to as “The Three Strikes.”
Strike one was in two parts. The first part was my being arrested for shoplifting $1.07 worth of food. After twenty years of living, I didn’t know how to take care of myself, I never had a job, and my parents handled all the money I earned. Luckily, my old high school social worker came through for me and talked the police into giving me a fine. That meant I had to I go back to confront my father, who stole it from me, demanding that he give me the money. I earned it when I was in the Army. Though he was stubborn about giving it back to me, a Sheriff’s deputy had a little chat with him, he sent it to me, and I was able to pay my fine.
The second part, I’m not proud of. A fellow tenant at the hotel where I lived was mentally retarded. I hung around with him and sexually took advantage of him. He told people what we were doing. Practicing homosexual activity, back in the mid-1980s, was inviting people to kill you. My social worker got hold of me and asked me about it. I didn’t think it was anyone’s business—but you’d be surprised how many people made it their business. Looking back, my shoplifting and manipulating the tenant had something in common. I was hungry for something —and took something that didn’t belong to me.
Strike One left me with a police record and a rumor that I was a deviant.
Strike Two began about ten p.m. on a Saturday night in March. I was on my own for only eight months and there were places in town I hadn’t seen yet. Walking down a street, without realizing it, I scared two important people. One house I apparently walked back and forth in front of and made the occupant, an old lady, nervous. The police wouldn’t have paid any attention to her, but she happened to own the hotel where I was living.
The second house I stopped in front of had a ceramic rabbit that I looked at. I want to make it clear that I never left the sidewalk and just stopped for a minute. That’s all I did. That was my crime. The house belonged to a police detective who was running for mayor. Apparently, I found out later, he had received a phone call telling him that if he won the election, he’d be killed. He saw me staring at his house, and looked me up to see if I had a record. I did. Well, you know what they had here, don’t you? They had a kid, arrested for shoplifting, who hated cops and couldn’t stand the fact that a cop was running for mayor.
The first I knew about it was when, a few days later, the police detective and his partner came to question me. It seemed to be about a walk I had taken that night and if I hated cops. When they left, I was very confused. On a hunch, I looked up the police detective’s name in the phone book and went to the address listed. I asked him the truth about why he and his partner visited me. He told me about the phone call. I told him that I didn’t even know who he was outside of the campaign posters. We left on good terms—or so I thought.
Strike Three was where I’m the bad guy. It’s hard for me to admit. I like to think my intentions were innocent. All I wanted to do was ask a girl out for a date—and I wound up scaring her. She was a library assistant, a high school junior who was pretty, quiet, wore a colorful jacket I thought was artistic, and seemed to like books. She was someone I wanted to get to know.
Unfortunately, I never had a date in high school, and outside of watching television, I didn’t know how people asked each other out for dates. I tried to talk to her a couple of times, but she didn’t seem interested. I rehearsed what I was going to say. I walked up to her and said my line trying to act cool.
In the middle of my delivery she said, “I think you’d better go now.”
I got angry and replied, “Why don’t you just tell me to buzz off.”
She got mad and stomped off and then I got mad and stomped off. I swear that’s what happened. I didn’t find out until later that about an hour before her boss, the Library director, called the police. Apparently the police detective, the one running for mayor and who thought I made the threatening phone call to him, phoned my social worker. You know how word of mouth can exaggerate a story, like the guy who catches a five-pound fish, and it gains ten to fifteen pounds in the telling? Well, he was told that there was some trouble with me in the elementary library and that it involved a girl. Want to guess what story came out of that?
He got ahold of me and questioned me. That is, if you call “reading me the riot act” questioning. I had never seen him like that before and it really scared me. Before he left, he told me “that if I wound up in prison, [the inmates] would eat me up.” From his tone of voice, it sounded like he was going to help make it happen. I was afraid the police would be there any minute—but I couldn’t be arrested and jailed for a crime I never committed and for a crime that never was committed, I just couldn’t.
Out of desperation and fear, I prayed to God for all I was worth. Emotionally exhausted, I fell into a heavy sleep and I heard a voice just before I woke up that said:
“It’s not how many times you get knocked down that count, it’s how many times you get back up.”
All of a sudden, I felt angry. I felt strength I never had before, and I’m not going to take this. No one, but no one, was going to take me without a fight. I had a talk with the Library director, saying to her:
“I understand that there was a phone call made concerning me.”
She said that there was and I had really upset the Library assistant. She talked for a few minutes, then I talked for a few minutes. In the end I apologized for the trouble I caused. I went to see the detective. He gave me a big buddy pat on the back and said to me:
“You are not going to be brought up on any charges. We only ask that you don’t do the same thing again.”
With prayer and God in my corner, I could face anything. With His help, I might have had three strikes—but I scored a home run.
Soon after that, I started attending an Outpatient Therapy program. Every day for nearly three years, I would board a van, go to a Mental Health Center, and get the help I needed. Over the years, through trial and error, I confronted my problems, applied myself, and I got my life together. It also opened my eyes to other people who, like me, were going through similar problems. I actually found a place, a world where I belonged. Through the years, I tried to help where I could and started to really pray to God and try to live as He would have wanted me to live. I admit to doing some sinning.
During the mid-1980s, though I was living on Welfare and Food stamps, I became part of my community–I volunteered in a nursing home and joined the local community theater. Every year, the theater put on Christmas shows with the local talent, and I participated by doing a reading. Those were great years. I also lived in a group home, worked in a sheltered workshop, got my driver’s license and my first job, working as a dishwasher in a bakery. I also lived on my own and learn how to support myself, paying rent, groceries, income tax, and other bills.
Over the years. I became part of my community and part of my church, helping out where I could. It was an ordinary life, but I loved it. It was important to me to have an identity, in a place where I was well thought of and belonged. I learned about being laid off, filing unemployment, get hired at other jobs, get fired from jobs, keeping jobs, and learned how to survive. I also moved to other places in town. Sometimes I fell on hard times and needed God’s help to see me through.
Now it has gotten to the point where I am living in a homeless shelter. He has seen me through to this point and I pray He always will.
We now return to Kurt’s “Handle with Prayer” liturgy.)
Though it would be a few years before I began to pray, each night I started praying regularly, I prayed for various people I thought could use God’s help. Over the years, I put down, added, and edited various groups and causes. Some were in my Usual Liturgy for a short time and some I still have.
This is who I currently pray for: My family, my church fellowships, certain leaders and celebrities, friends, and the people in the helping professions who have assisted me along the way.
The final page is where I sum up.
I ask God to watch over the people who I prayed for in My Usual Liturgy. I ask Him to protect them from
- Satan and the Demons
- The Entity (my own personal Demon)
- The Evil in the night and Terror that comes with it.
I ask God to watch over the people who I prayed for in My Usual Liturgy.
I thank God for the Blessings he gave to me this day and for what I was able to accomplish.I pray that He forgives me my sins and helps drown the Old Adam inside me.
Into His hands I commend my spirit thank Him for listening.
I thank Jesus for the Sacrifice He made and when I see Him that he finds no darkness inside me that my raiment is as white as snow and my name is in the Book of Life.
I ask that God and Jesus never give up on me, that the Holy Spirit work within me, and they always be with me.
Before I say Amen I say: “You take it easy.”
If you would like to read the rest of Kurt’s “Handle with Prayer” and see the “mind maps” that capture his evolving nightly prayer rituals, please email him at email@example.com. He would appreciate hearing from you.
© 2022 Kurt Baumann
Kurt Baumann lived in Beaver Dam from from 1983 to 2022, where he was involved in his community theater and church, and a contributor to his local newspaper. He now resides in Watertown. After working a variety of jobs for most of his life, he has retired to do some writing. He has written one book: The Written Works of Kurt Baumann.