Dropping some love into a sea of despair can sometimes produce some powerful ripples.
A few evenings ago I spent some time talking with a friend. Not very long ago he was homeless, living in the woods, spending his days begging for the money to feed his 40 years of alcoholism. Today he’s sober, employed and filled with a joy for life. These days he shares a house in a deeply impoverished part of our town with another man, and with the woman who owns the house. His housemate was also homeless a couple of years ago. He was staying beneath an abandoned building. He too was a decades-long alcoholic, who had been to prison (and been shot) five times. He too is clean and sober now. I had the great privilege last winter to spend a lot of time walking the streets of the poorest parts of our town with these guys, bringing lunches and some fellowship to some of the people who live there.
It was after our friends at Grace and Main Fellowship met these men that they began turning their lives around. And what tactic did the Grace and Main folks use to convince them? Nothing but some love. They just welcomed these men as friends and people of worth. They didn’t turn away as one of them backslid repeatedly. One of my friends there just befriended these guys, brought them into the larger group and they bloomed there. They were given help when they needed it. But there was no manipulation and no heavy-handed evangelism. No agenda other than sincere and honest love.
My formerly homeless friend told me that these days he and his housemates pool their food stamps and serve breakfast to the hungry and lonely folks in his neighborhood one morning every week. Last week they had 33 people there. He said that three people in the neighborhood have recently stopped drinking. One woman there, who is desperately poor, has started bringing some food to the gathering to share, embracing generosity.
Most people are oblivious to the struggles with poverty that are going on right in our own back yards. I was.
I think I’m a better person for having met these guys and their friends. It inspires me that they aren’t just satisified to improve their own lives, but are spreading the love and making differences in the lives of others. It’s an example we should all follow.