Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Man Without A Name

Joe Bieger walked out his front door with his two dogs one morning last fall a beloved husband, father, grandfather and assistant high-school athletic director. Minutes later, all of that — indeed, his very identity — would seemingly be wiped from his brain’s hard drive.

For 25 days, he wandered the streets of Dallas and its environs a lost soul, unable to remember his name, what he did for a living or where he lived, until, finally, a contractor who was building a new house for Bieger and his wife happened to recognize him.

By that point, Bieger had somehow made his way to a suburb about 20 miles from his Dallas home, holes worn in the rubber soles of his canvas shoes. He had lost 25 pounds, and a full white beard covered the normally clean-shaven educator’s face.

Bieger, 59, says he was diagnosed afterward as suffering from psychogenic fugue, an extremely rare form of amnesia. Now reunited with his family and back at work, Bieger agreed to tell his story to The Associated Press.

Bieger says he has regained all his memories up to the point he wandered away, and is amazed at the outpouring of support he received from friends, co-workers and the hundreds of volunteers who helped search for him on the streets, at hospitals and in homeless shelters and soup kitchens.

“Everyone believes that God brought me back for a reason, otherwise this might have ended differently,” he says. “God wants me here to work with these students.”

Bieger is under the care of a doctor who specializes in such cases. And his cell phone now includes a GPS tracking device.

But more than three months after the episode, he says he has only vague memories of those days on the streets of Dallas, one of America’s most crime-ridden cities.

He recalls being stopped and frisked by police officers, who were looking for a suspect in a holdup at a pizzeria. There was also a smoky bowling alley. He remembers waking up cold on a playground, wearing shorts and a T-shirt with fall temperatures dropping into the 50s. Another time, he says, he awoke under a construction trailer.

He says he cannot recall what he ate to survive. But when he was found, he had jelly packets from a fast-food restaurant in his pockets and half a stale bagel. The complete AP story is dated
January 26th, 2007 from DALLAS.

What incredible value there is in having a name.

On the surface we ought to be grateful we know our name! Here is a man who wandered the streets of the Dallas metroplex with absolutely no recognition of his name, the location of his home, his family or how to find them.

What a blessing it is to come home to a family at the end of the day. There are stresses and bills and disagreements but at least I know where they are and I know they’re mine. The bills mean I have a home. The pain means my body is healing. The arguments mean I have friends. The disagreements mean I have family. The fatigue means I have a job.

However, beyond the surface interest in this story there is spiritual insight.

When James and John suggested that fire be called down from heaven, and a city destroyed, Jesus rebuked them saying, “ye know not what spirit ye are of” ( ).

They had a spiritual amnesia. Not knowing who they were or what they were called to do.

I wonder how many people are wandering the streets, sitting on church pews and occupying homes today, stricken with a spiritual amnesia; An identity crisis with eternal consequences.

We get up and go about our business with no thought for who or what we really are at our core. We have no room, it seems, in our culture for self-evaluation and discovery. We assume everything’s okay because we eat, sleep and pay the bills but I would contend that there is more to life than mere existence or survival.

There is a spiritual and purposeful level that each soul can reach in our brief time on earth that can benefit the now as well as prepare for the hereafter.

It is heartwarming that Joe Bieger has been reunited with his memories as well as his family and it gives us a picture of what can happen to all of us spiritually.

We don’t have to wander without a name.

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