“Do not be conformed to the image of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)
I don’t have a word in my vocabulary that works for me to label what we do. Ministry doesn’t quite apply. That carries the connotation that it’s a job, work, or obligation. What we do goes beyond that. It brings a joy and a pleasure. It brings aggravation and heart ache. It brings belly laughs and many tears and sobs. We do what we do without compensation. I think if I was paid I would quit. It’s too hard sometimes. But one single little moment in the storms around us makes it all worthwhile.
Every Friday evening a church provides a meal for the street. Last night it was fried chicken, sausage ravioli, a Mexican casserole, and four desserts. Launny and his wife Debbie from First United Methodist Church here in town brought the dinner. Usually I have to ask some of the guys sitting around to help unload and help set up but this time James took charge and led a team out to get it done. I was free to continue to pray for one of our street friends and so I relinquished my obligation to James.
Just so you should know, James has been with us for some time now. We met him last year. He lived in his truck piled high in the back with his treasures that he found along the road, in dumpsters and put out with the trash. He is in his mid 30s and spent 9 years in prison and is out on parole. Estranged from his family who had their own problems and without friends, he was a soap bubble floating here and there and alone. He was angry when we first met him and would he would go into raging tirades over some common place inconveniences. He yelled and clenched his fists and tensed his body in a threatening manner. I’m sure the meth aided in those tantrums.
He kept coming by though and has been clean for a while now. His emotions have leveled off and he has exhibited a welcome dry sense of humor. He attends church services on Sunday and has offered some thoughts (good ones) about the scriptures he’s reading and the insights he has. He is being transformed.
After the dinner and our Circle last night I gave him a ride to his current night location. He is still homeless. (He still needs some help in getting his IDs. This is common for many of our homeless Brothers and Sisters. We do what we can but sometimes it feels like the System is set up to keep them from moving forward.)
On the way to where he is bedding down he asked if I could take him to a service station south of town to get some cigarettes. I said sure and asked if he had the money because I don’t buy them for the guys. He said yes he did. The last couple of days he has gone to Home Depot and started helping people load their stuff into their vehicles. He just wanted to help them since he has received so much help. Of course some of them gave him tips. He had made $30 yesterday but he emphasized he wasn’t doing it for the money. I believe him. I believe he just wanted to help because he’s been helped. He’s being transformed.
He bought his cigarettes and got back in the car and we hit the road to take him to his temporary shelter. We had gone about a half a mile and he asked if I could do a u-turn and go back to a different convenience store. He said he met another homeless guy that hung out there and he wanted to give him one of the dinners he had. Again I said yes and we headed back.
Randy (the guy) lives under the I-20 Interstate bridge and during the day opens the door at the convenience store for customers going in and coming out. He’s well known there and people hand him tips for the service. This is the guy James wanted to give one of his meals to. They had met last year and had struck up a Street Guy friendship.
James brought Randy over and introduced us. We talked for a while and got to know each other a little. I asked if he could use some groceries every now and then. We provide sacks to the homeless that have street friendly food. Food that doesn’t need preparation. He said sure that would be helpful. What he really needed though was some foam to sleep on. “We’ve got that,” I said. “Someone had just brought some by our place several days ago.”
We talked a little more and James got back in the van and I took him to where he’s sleeping. He took his stuff out and then I asked him to get back the van for a moment.
“I want to tell you how impressed I am with you. It has not gone unnoticed how much you consider others and step in to help and to aid our Brothers and Sisters in need. I am honored to know you.”
I stuck my fist out for a fist bump as that is the acceptable method of expressing “good job.” He just stared at my fist for several seconds and then held out his open hand. I opened mine and we shock hands. He didn’t let go. He said, “Thank you, Mr. Don.” And I nodded. He’s being transformed.