Most Monday’s at midday, you can find me at one of my most treasured moments of the week, serving lunch to homeless men at the Rescue Mission downtown. Here is a place that for decades has welcomed the unwelcomed in for something to eat and a place to sleep. And…if a man wants to give life one more fear-filled try, they take him into a 7-month program of intense training, support, conditioning, and faith building. A fellow can learn computer skills, math, English, lots of Bible, even get his GED. He is surrounded by counselors, teachers, ministers, and like-committed forgotten souls. If he navigates this chance well, he “graduates” and is ushered (with additional support, if he wants) back into the flow of the real world. As they near this restart moment, men go through a jumble of emotions – excitement, chilling fear, pride, shame of the past, gratitude, impatience. Many leave and make it. Many leave and fall at the first offer of a hit. Some come back through “The Program” to try yet again.
During their time there, I’m privileged to make so many new friends, fellow brothers in Christ. I learn their names and their stories. Take W.B., for example. (He told me a few times that the way to remember his name is to think of Warner Brothers.). He turns 58 today as I’m writing this. He’s divorced, but has a big family – 31 grandchildren, all local. He fell in love with stuff that’s bad for you and it got him. But, he wants so bad to have another crack at it. W.B. stuck his head in the door of the cafeteria yesterday, looked at me with a cheek-splitting smile, held up a hand with all fingers spread and shouted, “4 More Days!” W.B. is chomping at the bit to get back out there when he graduates on Friday. He said he’d take ANY job that paid minimum wage. He just wants another chance to be a man, to earn back respect, both from himself and from family and friends.
It struck me yesterday as it often has that the power swirling around those halls is the same one that lies behind the eyes of most of the folks we meet who seem joy-filled, positive, determined, fun to be around, seemingly on a mission – hope. HOPE. Hope – the real belief that better days are surely on their way. That I CAN achieve this thing, this dream. That God IS, in fact (not in theory), working in the world, working in MY world, for good. That people are good. That life is good. That temptations, obstacles, pain, loss can be overcome. That the past is the past and it cannot determine my future. That today brings to me a new, blank sheet of paper and a sharpened pencil, on which to write my dreams. The Scriptures give us this: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1, NKJV). A person with hope in his heart and the faith to believe it is true is a person equipped and readied by God to become all God intends him to be. How much more power-filled can a person be than that?
Where do we come into all this? Well, certainly to make Hope the watchword for our own lives, but also to be enablers to those who might not be on as solid a spot of ground as we may thankfully be. To grease the skids for souls new to the idea of Hope. To help them realize what they hope for. We know in our deepest being that we are to give from our plenty to those with little. It’s not just money and things, though, although those are necessary. It’s those other provisions of a life well-stocked for moving out and moving forward. Respect, opportunity, encouragement, a hand, friendship….hope. HOPE. Give it.
“4 more days!”. Good for you, W.B., good for you.