This is one of those posts that I will start and stop a hundred times. It will be hard for me to find the words that help me fully tell the story and express its impact on me. But, it is too important for me not to share. I also admit from the beginning that I am sharing this to boast. I am boasting because I have a GREAT husband!
Last week Jay was in California for most of the week. ***sidenote- I am determined not to whine as much this spring when his traveling really picks up.*** There are some places that he travels to that I am not always very supportive of, primarily because I don't know anyone there and don't like not knowing all of the details. California is not one of those places, because he usually gets to visit some good friends of ours, Milo & Cheryl. Milo has been a mentor to Jay in many ways. He was in the same field as Jay, had a lot of the same business contacts, but most importantly, he serves God in all that he does. It is because of his influence (I believe) that Jay became interested in prison minstry. There have been many times that Jay has had breakfast with Milo at a place where some of the men that Milo mentored in jail currently worked.
Well, fortunately Jay was able to meet with Milo and Cheryl the last night of this trip too. But, this story is about the night before that.
Jay was walking from his hotel down the street to an area of fast food places. As he shared his this, I had remembered him telling me that because of budget cuts California released a lot of inmates (apparently he forgot). Anyway, off to the side of the street, a man approached him. He didn't ask for money, but rather just asked Jay if he wouldn't mind wrapping any leftovers up and giving them to him when he left. Jay told him sure and started off. Jay told me that he only got a few steps away when he turned around and asked him to eat with him. That's right! My husband invited a homeless man to join him at Wendy's.
Jay introduced himself and found out the man's name, David. At first, David told him that for $5 he could buy a case of ramen noodles. But, Jay requested his company and David agreed. In just 30-45 minutes, Jay learned quite a lot about this man. Apparently, David was quite the talker. I could so relate. I will talk anyone's ear off while Jay is travelling because I need adult conversation. So, I just thought to myself, if this man doesn't have a home and family to come home to, he needed to talk. Well, Jay found out that this man had served in the Army, been medically discharged and has been waiting 4 months for his first disability check. In the meantime, he has no home to go to, and he is unable to find a job. I am sure there are other details, but hat sums it up.
I thought to myself, just as you might be, he is good at telling this story, but how do I know it was for real. Jay said he quite possibly could have made it up, but Jay really did not get that impression at all, and he said, "Who was he to judge?" Anyway, David ordered chicken nuggets and a frosty off of the value menu...I would have gone for the biggest triple meat burger and fries if I was manipulating someone!
There are many details that really struck me about their conversation but will only share a few:
1) Jay asked if he was able to go to any church to ask for help. David replied, "I am a Godly man, but look at me. I can't go to church looking like this."
WOW! I have heard that some people were too intimidated to go to church because people wore expensive clothes, but I always thought, "not my church. We are middle class and really not that fancy." Never did I realize that the intimidation might not be about brand names(my materialistic thinking), but rather just being clean Jay too, was really struck by this comment. What message is the Church sending? Wasn't Christ's message to serve "the least of these?" Didn't Christ go to these people, walk among these people, teach and serve these people?
2) Jay was also really bothered by the fact that this man served his country and yet, after the hero's welcome home, he was left to fend for himself. I have dealt with government paperwork while working on our adoption, and can very easily imagine how overwelming and time-consuming dealing with the red tape can be! It should not take over 4 months to be compensated for a job done!
3) David may not have had much, but he did still have his pride. Jay told me that David told him he would starve to death before he would hold a cardboard sign asking for a handout. He rummaged through garbage in an attempt to avoid being seen and further humiliated.
4) One thing that Jay said to me was that he now views homeless people very differently. He (and I) have helped in homeless shelters, primarily at Christmas because that's the season to serve (ugh). But,he said he has always had a viewpoint of helping the homeless as a collective group. After meeting David, he has spent a lot of time thinking about how each person is unique and in their various situations for different reasons. Some may struggle with addiction, some mental illness, and some for a handout, but Jay said even those that are in those groups got to that point for different reasons.
All this to say, this one dinner with David affected Jay in a big way! He was so struck by David's need to preserve some sense of pride that Jay decided to find him the next night. Before he went looking again, Jay stopped at Wal-Mart to purchase leather cords, key chains, plastic cords, beads, ramen noodles, and a bible. Jay needed to do something, and he felt that if David was able to make a keychain and offer something in return for donations, that David would feel more self worth.
Needless to say, Jay did not see David again and we returned the items when he got back. Jay did acknowledge that the many reasons we have been skeptical in the past could be the reason that David was in the position that he was in, but it does not take away the fact that David made quite the impression on us and how we view humanity.
It all boils down to this:
First (and foremost):
God has made us to simply serve Him by serving others. Jesus came to earth and served! Why do I agree to help (which I think is different that serving) only on my terms, when its convenient, when the other person fits a sterotype, when I have time?
I am married to one really terrific guy!