Monday, August 26, 2013

Heartache, hope, and shaking my head

This week has been interesting, to say the least. I went out to feed the homeless as usual, but the day was anything but usual. I met a couple of young people, each with a story of abuse and neglect that was heartbreaking to hear. I also met a man who has been an alcoholic longer than I have been alive. His story was sad, but hope appears to be on the horizon for him.

A friend reached out to him and is sending him a ticket to go home to the mainland. While talking with him, he expressed fear that he would mess up again. He felt like he didn't deserve a second chance because he had messed up so many times in his life. He talked about failing and falling short. He was especially surprised that I bothered to reach out to him and give him a meal, since most of the people he encountered liked to kick him while he was down (More on this second part a little later).

I gave him some words of encouragement, prayed with him, and even laughed a little. I don't know what the future holds, but I hope he will accept his second chance and make the most of it. The truth is we all mess up. I don't even know where I would be had I not received a second, third, or, heck, 200th chance. I could have easily ended up in similar circumstances as him, or worse. I hope he grabs on to that second chance with everything he's got and gets a chance to live a better life.

The thing that left me shaking my head this week was seeing the attitude of folks in my community. I happen to be a part of a few community groups, and for the most part, they just like to talk about the good old days. This week I found the topic of their discussion to be completely distasteful. More than a few folks felt a need to not just kick some of the less fortunate in our community while they are down but resort to making fun of them and talking about how society would be better without them (This last part I am putting nicely because their words were just too harsh).

Hearing them talk of such things left me shaking my head. It's sad that they, most of whom are very well-off, feel the need to entertain themselves at the expense of others. Why not help, instead of kick a person while he or she is already down? The only real response I received was, "Well, if you like them so much, why don't you do something?" So, I briefly discussed what I have been trying to do, which unfortunately, instantly prevented any of them from saying anything at all from that point forward. Seriously, some dialog would have been nice.

Anyway, I just felt a need to put this out there. In our efforts to help others, we will inevitably encounter haters. Don't let that prevent you from continuing to help. There's a lot of hurting people out there. There's a lot of sad stories, but if you stick with it, you will see hope shine through. Keep trying. Have an awesome week, my friends!

Monday, August 19, 2013

A season for every activity under the heavens

Ecclesiastes 3: 1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,

4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,

8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

9 What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time.

This past week has been all about witnessing seasons for me, which is what this passage of scripture is all about. Some of you may even remember a song from the 60's by The Byrds that used this passage in their song "Turn! Turn! Turn!" I have been spending a considerable amount of time witnessing, and in many cases, walking with people through the many highs and lows of life.

In life, we go through many seasons. We experience immense joy and extreme heartache; sometimes, we experience them both at the same time. I know some seasons--especially the difficult ones--feel like they will never end. However, as is the case with everything in nature, even the coldest, darkest winters eventually end and another season begins. Tomorrow is another day, filled with new opportunities, and another chance to dust yourself off and try again.

Above all else, trust that God can and will carry you through. God walks with us through the joys as well as the pains. You are not alone. God takes us through many seasons, but the one thing we must know, understand, and believe with confidence is that God makes everything beautiful in His perfect timing. Be blessed during this glorious week, my friends.

The Byrds - Turn! Turn! Turn!


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Reaching out to those on the fringes

A month ago, I started a new ministry that serves the homeless in my community. I fund the program with my own money from odd jobs and sales of my book BEYOND HEIGHTS AND DEPTHS. I basically hand out egg and cheese burritos and bottles of water to folks I meet around town. The majority of those I reach out to are drug addicts, have mental health issues, or a combination of the two. Men, women, young, and old, I try to reach as many of them as possible on a weekly basis.

The decision to do this came about when I was thinking about how many times I wished someone would help all of these folks I would see around town. I realized I was complaining about the lack of help, but I was not doing anything to help. I spent a huge part of my adolescence living on the streets, showering at beaches, and figuring out where my next meal would come from. I battled addiction. I could relate to them, yet I was not doing anything to help. So, with the help of my wife and a couple of friends, I set out to reach the one group of people in my community that no one wants to.

The response has been amazing. In the first week, I only managed to reach 5 people. By the second week, that number doubled, and by the third, the number of people more than tripled. It's been a blessing for me to help. For a short time, their day is a little better. They don't have to worry about one meal. One of the most common responses I get is: For a little while, they don't feel like they are being ignored. For a little while, someone talks to them like they are human again. In the end, isn't that what we all want? We want to be treated kindly. We want someone to acknowledge our existence. We want to be treated like a human being.

Interestingly, the only complaints I get are usually from behind barely opened windows of European SUV's. They like to yell about helping people they do not feel deserve help. Of course, they don't want to be seen, so they barely open their windows, and then speed off. Never once has any of them ever come out of their beautiful, air-conditioned, leather interior vehicle to talk to me face-to-face. Funny how those who have plenty like to decide for everyone else who does or does not deserve help.

For me, it does not hurt me in any way to help someone out in a small way, show some compassion to those who are less fortunate, or feed someone who hasn't eaten in days. It's not much, but I hope I will be able to expand this endeavor into something that benefits even more people. If nothing else, I hope others will be inspired to help people in need, wherever they are in the world.