Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dentures and dignity

There is a friend of mine who inspires me.
6 months ago he was living in a tent down by the river (Chris Farley should be ringing in your ears).  Through a slow, difficult, and patient process he now has a steady job, roof over his head, and plans for his future.
Be careful not to think that I am glad he has a job, a roof, and plans.  Those are simply the signs in his life that something deeper is going on; the costume that a new creation has decided to don.  I'm inspired because he found something inside of himself strong enough to push through 20 years of addiction, 2 marriages, and 4 months of homelessness.
If you are anything like me you bring to this story an element of skepticism to the validity or longevity of his change.  Shame on us for hiding behind the cynical veneer of "being a realist".  Christ's first and only response is one of compassion and hope, and so should ours be.  Right?

Well, I have never seen this same friend of mine glow as much as he did this past Sunday.  His new set of teeth came in.  At first, I didn't recognize him.  Seriously, I thought he looked familiar but could not think of who he was.  And then I realized, it was my old friend with a new smile!  It showed me the intimate connection between physical and spiritual things.  His spirit found new dignity in a set of dentures.

He looked like a million bucks; you should have seen him.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The old man and the porch

A week ago news was buzzing in our poor community that an older lady, who is like a grandmother to everyone, fell and broke her hip.  You actually have heard a story about her before.  She is the woman in the story called "The Tithe" written a few weeks back. The news of this tragedy traveled fast through the community, and she was mentioned by several people at our weekly time for prayer concerns before the Sunday lunch.

There's hardly any need to know last names in this particular culture/community.  In some cases simply getting assigned a nickname suffices especially if you have a defining characteristic (I have not been assigned one yet, but perhaps maybe one day).  Being that absolutely no one knew Shirley's last name, we had no way of finding her in the hospital.  The good news was Shirley gets picked up on our Sunday Shuttle (a church van that travels around Norman picking up people without transportation), so we had an idea of where her "home"was.  

I had our staff sign a card for her, and I ventured out to deliver it with a small grocery sack.

What I found was her husband sitting on the covered porch in a rocking chair.  We talked about cigarettes, family history, and God for what had to have been an hour in the shade of his porch on a hot Norman afternoon.

I learned three things that day:
(1) You don't have to go to a different country to find people who are starving physically and socially.
(2) Fear keeps us from having so many life-changing encounters.
(3) Hope draws people together

Thanks for reading, everyone! (Shirley is recovering on schedule by the way)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Giving Back

Our goal is never to enable people to become leaches on the systems that are meant to help, but it will always happen.
Our goal is always to love and empower people to the point where they are overflowing with self-worth and respect, and this sometimes happens.

A few weeks ago a lady came to our food pantry and received a family sack of groceries.  As we talked I learned that she was a single mother of two and unemployed.  The next week she returns and says that she wants to give pack to our food pantry. "What are some needed items?"she asks.  I tell her some staples but insist that she doesn't need to do that.  She returns forty-five minutes later with peanut butter, canned vegetables, and crackers that she bought using her food stamps.
Since then she has offered her time as a volunteer in other areas of the Community Ministry.

I am learning how much harder it is to receive than give.
I am learning how invaluable true gratefulness is.