Wiping away tears, he said: “I didn’t think any of them would ever want to talk with me again.”
Middle of the evening a friend on the streets had asked me to take his picture. He hasn’t been around for a number of months so he’d already filled me in on the loss of a job and getting back to work. He looked better and said life was improved in every way.
I don’t know where he sleeps. He may have one of the small room’s downtown or he may have etched himself a “safe spot” somewhere in the city to get a night’s rest, stash his stuff and be able to head to work. He has a smartphone – probably through one of the free phone programs – so after I snapped his photo I simply attached it to a text and he had it.
Looking at himself. Clean. New haircut. Smiling at me he said: “Wanted something to send my family. This will be perfect!” I gave him a thumbs up and headed back to my work.
As the night was winding down – men and women living in varying degrees of urban poverty – having been fed, many getting clothes or shoes, Sunday evening conversation at a close, people began to wander away. Some stop to say goodbye. Others take a few minutes to pick up trash while a few wait to close the evening in prayer. My friend, looking at the picture of himself on his phone, stood next to his bicycle and waved for me to come to him, he said he had something he wanted to tell me.
He jumped right to the point of the story: “I never knew anything about facebook, the internet, or any of that stuff until about five months ago. When I first got on facebook it was little more than an empty box with a question. It asked: ‘What’s on your mind?’
Like a journal I started writing everything; how I lost my family, ended up on skid row, how much I loved and missed them, how it was all my fault. I just poured it all out thinking I was the only one who’d ever see it. I didn’t know other people could see your name, read what you were writing, look for you…”
His family, like so many others who’ve lost someone into poverty and feel like they’ve come to the end of hope and help, had been searching the internet, spending time on facebook, holding out the last shred of hope that he must be somewhere – maybe he was on facebook – somehow, impossibly, maybe they could find him.
They found his personal journal. The words he thought no one would ever read. His apology to the universe. The words he wished he’d find the hope and opportunity to someday tell those he still loved and carried with him daily in his heart. They read it all… and asked to be his friend.
They’re in the process of reconciliation. He said; “I can’t believe it, they said they miss and love me – they want to see me. I can’t wait to send them this picture.” He was crying. How could he not? He’d sent out his heart, without hope, to the universe and it responded with hope, love and an invitation to family and home. He still belonged.
We hugged. Quietly, silently, I marveled at the life God allows me to live and I gave thanks. He’s too good.
Every Sunday night doesn’t have this story – but every Sunday has a story – a miracle – a knock you out of your socks kind of “Chicken Soup for The Soul” moment that you can experience but you have to open up your heart, your life, your time, even your finances to the vast expanse of the unexplored and unexpected “more” that awaits us when we love and serve. It can happen every day. It’s what we were created for.
My time this week has been made a bit fuller by the image of family, carefully sharing with family, spreading it across fb, in texts, in emails a simple photo that I took of a friend. It’s a miracle in their homes. Like a sacred document, holy text, a masterpiece – the photos been printed and printed and printed again, through tears, with love as they put it in a frame, a wallet, on the refrigerator – where they stop – search out every detail – suck in the reality, he’s alive. Dad’s alive! My son’s alive! My brother’s alive! The years that once felt like the dark cavern of death once again hold hope, the stone has rolled away, He’s Alive!
People ask why we go to the streets on Sunday nights. Miracles live there. We get to share the adventure. To give our lives. I’m always amazed that we’re ever broke. I read this story – and I’m living it – and I want to send money! Who doesn’t want to restore hope, feed the hungry and bring new wealth to the wasteland of urban poverty in the heart of our city? We can be the miracle! The answer to the prayer that every family prays when their loved one is missing. We can be that first step towards home… and sometimes we get to hear all about it. We did last Sunday night.
His picture’s a little celebration on my phone. I’d share it, but I haven’t asked his permission, maybe I will this Sunday night. We’re going back to the streets. It’s been so very many Sundays, even still, after all these decades, it’s only Tuesday, and already I’m excited. It would be such an honor to surrender part of this joyous work into your hands. To spend whatever remains of my life with you on Sunday night. And if not side by side on the streets – with Jodi in the kitchen – in prayer throughout the week – in your personal financial support. We belong together. You’re needed, now, more than ever. You’re Invited!
for changing lives,
Eric M. Denton
Jackets for Jesus