By Justin Hewitt
There are many sights and sounds that have become commonplace around Beit T’ Shuvah. They provide the sense and familiarity of home that so many find as they “hold on.” For instance, what would The Beit be without the fiery, sometimes controversial, Shabbot Service? The genuine and sometimes not so genuine Tshuvahs made by residents. Harriet’s always-insightful talks. A counseler asking someone to go test. Unintelligible blurps on the loudspeaker. Ryan saying, ”Thank you for calling Beit T’ Shuvah.” All these sounds and visions make up the hum drum grind that is daily Shuve life. However, there is another sight and sound that is often heard, often unappreciated and always hilarious. “Hey, you heard the one about the nun and the monkey? Do you know Willis?” I am of course referring to the one and only Mark Wiseman. Beit T Shuvah will always be known for a woman with a dream or a bat-toting Rabbi, but I will also always remember the man with a joke.
The first time I met Mark Wiseman he looked at me and said, “Your not Jewish, huh?” “No,” I replied rather timidly. He quickly followed with, “Do you know the one about the Priest?” We both laughed and I felt a little bit more at home. Most people see this side of Mark, a joke-wielding shameless flirt who just wants your cigarette. He plays the role up and residents laugh. They joke back. They smile. They laugh. People just out of prison. Just back from overdose. Lives shattered. They laugh. Mark gets his cigarette. Life on Shirley’s as usual.
A few days into my stay at Beit T’ Shuvah I was told that I would be Mr. Weisman’s roommate. I thought, “Ohhh, here we go,” only to find out that I had been buffaloed by Wisman’s act. I walked in and a gracious and respectful Mark had greeted me. I was soon to find out the truth about Mark. He silently cares about The Shuve as much as Rabbi or Harriet. I know it wasn’t always this way, but unbelievably, improbably it is. Whenever I loaned Mark a dollar, he paid it back before he had to. Whenever I needed a dollar he loaned one to me. He keeps constant tally of how his friends are doing. He goes out of his way for people in small but important ways. Best of all he makes those around him laugh. He is the unofficial mascot of Beit T’ Shuvah, a testament to the healing power of community. Rough, unpolished and crass but possessing a carefree spirit to channel a song or dance for people to adore. An unlikely hero. A hulking mass of personality. Surely a doctor if laughter is the best medicine. Thank you Mark! You have my cigarette.
I implore those who read this blog to comment with your best Wiseman story.