When two become one, two families also enter into a new phase of trying to capitalize on the time the newlyweds have for each of us. We love every minute they allow us, and yet know that their own life as a family has begun, and we would do ourselves well to adopt flexibility when filling in the holiday plans on the calendar. The definition of "holiday" must be "when we are all together" to celebrate, regardless of the date.
Normally, not unlike the rest of you, our Thanksgiving day is generally cooking, game playing and watching football, but since we were planning to celebrate a few days later, we were able to take advantage of an opportunity to serve on that day.
We all looked forward to it, to one degree or another, admittedly Dot and I were probably the ones actually jumping up and down, but the others were more than agreeable. A local church had organized the event to feed the local and growing homeless population and when it was publicized in the paper, more, far more than enough, people showed up with food and to serve. The goal was accomplished in feeding the hungry people that came, but it was a little disappointing to arrive, looking forward to serving and be told that there was plenty of help.
We were encouraged though, to "mingle" or "sit and talk" with the homeless as they ate. Long cafeteria tables filled the packed room and though our group was prepared to serve food, making conversation with total strangers brought a certain level of discomfort and challenge. Its tough to imagine having a lot in common with someone living on the street. I noticed my team heading outdoors to see if the drink or dessert table needed some help, but I spied a group of men and women sitting together and sat among them.
I hesitate to go much further. I am cautious to write about this day and what has followed at all because I know that being public about my experience could be misunderstood as self-serving. I know as believers the Bible says both "Let your light so shine among men, that they will see your good deeds and glorify your father in heaven." and "but when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand knowing what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret".
So I am torn. Except that I am so excited and I can't stand not sharing it because people...God is doing a thing in the life of a man named William. And God is doing a thing in me by allowing me to watch it up close and I do not want you to miss any moment of the excitement.
Back to Thanksgiving. I sat and wasn't especially welcomed by 3 of the 4 sitting there. I understand that. Here some healthy, well intentioned people, who live in homes, drive cars, and are wearing a fresh pair of clothing, come to serve the needy. But its a holiday and it probably looks like we are here today and will be gone tomorrow, and then feel really good about ourselves while our homeless friends, find their way back to the cardboard box or less, and lay awake tonight picturing us back in our warm houses watching football. But...But...William.
He was cautious at first when I started asking about his life and situation and history and I am so not good about giving people space and privacy. Considerate and respectful, yes I am, but I can't always figure out how to love somebody where they are, unless I know, well...where they are. He was hesitant, wondering how much of who he really was and his past I would sit through and what he might say that would make me bolt.
The more I heard and could relate, the more I wondered the same thing of him. I mean I am further from my past, but though God forgets our sin, he lets us remember enough so that we can relate to someone else and for heaven's sake close the gap between us. Because what a waste of time to think we are different people in the eyes of a Savior who died for both of us.
He didn't begin by opening up too freely, but he didn't get up and leave either. So we kept on. The details of where he has been and the life he came from leaked out first in general terms, then in a few details. I can't say we have experienced the same things, but pain and suffering and disappointment are universal. And, somehow God gave me some downright amazing insight and so many comforting things to say to him about who is really is, not who he has been.
At one point, through tears this 57 year old skeleton of a man, looked at me, and said "I wish I had had a mom like you". I don't believe he was pointing to anything except just wanting so badly to be listened to and understood. Maybe its been a long, long time.
There is always a story. There just is. There is always a set of circumstances, a series of decisions, key people missing at important moments. There is always a story. You will never convince me to abandon that truth. There is always a story.
We both pulled our sunglasses down, so we wouldn't look unmanly in the crowd. Because whatever self respect still remains when everything else has been lost, is worth holding on to.
I don't know how long we sat there. He talked about how he thinks God looks at him. I told him the truth about that. He told me about being so behind in doing good in his life, that he could never, never make it up. I told him he was right, but "doing" had no bearing on what God thought. I shared my own low point and time where my own reflection in the mirror disgusted me. But that there is hope, and redemption and that God had taken a heap and brought so much good and healing and purpose.
And then it was time to go.
I told him I would never forget him. I am sure he didn't believe me. We would go home and he would go back to homeless. So I hugged him good and tight and had to put my sunglasses back down on the way out. And D held me tight to the car and I had to leave my sunglasses down for most of the ride home, and now.
I knew I would never forget him. I just knew.
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