A few days ago I left the campus early to head across town for an appointment. I made my way into traffic and got stuck at the light at Oak and Harkrider. I looked over towards Walgreen's and noticed a guy flying a sign. "He's new", I thought. I haven't seen him around before. I wondered what his story was and was he homeless or an "entrepreneur" as I like to call them.
I scanned the horizon and saw someone I did recognize crossing the cross walk towards the man on the corner. I will call him "Jacob" for the sake of protecting his identity. I met Jacob my first summer with the Ministry Center. We had just launched the Storehouse and it was a blazing summer day with only one A/C unit working in that old building. I called Jacob's name for his turn to shop. "JAKE" are you ready... and saw a young man in a suit with sweat pouring off of him. He looked at me and said my name is "Jacob". I apologized and told him that I wouldn't get it wrong again. We spent some time talking while he waited in line to shop and I realized that he was both childlike and brilliant and struggled with mental illness.
As I watched him cross the street my mind reeled back to a day earlier when I saw him in another part of town. He was walking as always, his fist in the air screaming at a car that had cut it a bit close as it railed into a local fast food joint. To be honest, I probably would have raised my fist in the air and yelled also but I can get away with it because I don't look homeless. I also knew that Jacob was having one of his bad days because on his good days he wouldn't have said anything. He is one of the most gentle souls I have ever met.
This is one of the longest stop lights ever, I think to myself. Jacob finally made it across the crosswalk and stopped by the man flying the sign. He slid his backpack off of his shoulders and sat it on the sidewalk. The man stared at him, you could tell they didn't know each other. Jacob dug in his bag for a few moments, pulled out a couple of wrinkled dollar bills and dropped it in the man's cup. He slung the pack back over his shoulders and made his way down the street.
Tears spilled out of me. Jacob may be mentally ill, he may wear suits in the middle of the summer, he may freak people out sometimes, he may slip in and out of homelessness....but that guy loves Jesus and Jesus loves him. He is so giving...so loving. When he comes to the pantry he won't take more than he thinks he needs because someone may need it more.
My friend at Salvation Army had arranged for him to get a few new to him articles of clothing last summer because his coat was absolutely tattered and it was pretty rancid. He came back the next day and brought them back. Jacob told her that he felt bad about accepting them because someone may really need them and he could make do with what he had a little longer. I wish my heart was that selfless but it isn't. I have to be intentional about not being selfish. I have to be intentional about loving people. I have to ask Jesus often to soften my heart and beg him to love people through me because my human nature just isn't good at it. But Jacob...with Jacob that love flows out him.
This community and the people in it are beautiful if we take the time to really see them. The folks that show up to work and serve at our local non profits...they are beautiful too. I don't know how many times my friend at Salvation Army has texted or called asking if I had seen Jacob lately. Saying that she hadn't seen him in a few days and the last time she saw him was one of his bad days. And not just him but others and not just her, but other partners from multiple non-profits. You get us in a room together and it sounds like a family reunion except we are checking on clients that have captured our hearts.
The work that goes on behind the scenes is Kingdom work and as my friend Mike says...we get to serve the people that Jesus loves. I feel regret that I missed out on this kind of love most of my life. I couldn't see beyond myself and some days I am still not very successful at it.
As I come upon my 3rd anniversary at the Ministry Center I am thankful and humbled. I am thankful that God brought me here to learn, grow and mature. This God doesn't want to leave us in our tattered condition. His great love for us is evident in the way he reaches through our broken state to heal us and love on humanity in the process. In the same way that Jacob reached out to the guy in the same shape as him...I get to do that everyday...reach out to people in the same shape as I am. I am glad to be one of the people that Jesus loves.
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