I was on my way downtown to pick up Bob, my friend who has 18 months clean. I first met Bob at Mt. Airy shelter, where he ended up homeless after years of using drugs and drinking. When I took him to church he said he felt like he was home, and started on his road to sobriety. After many false starts, he finally made it. But when I talked to him on the phone, he told me he was very frustrated trying to find a job. He had no money but was grateful that he had a place to stay and some food stamps to keep him from starving. He tries to help others as much as he can, but feels he doesn’t have much to give. His spirits are always lifted by going to church, so I told him I’d pick him up.
I was driving down Liberty Street on the way to pick Bob up, when an ambulance approached with its siren blaring. I pulled over to the side of the road. There I saw my friend Mario. Mario has lived all his life in OTR, and spent much of his life using drugs and robbing people to support his habit. With a lot of help from God, he’d begun to pull his life back together. He was able to get off drugs, he was helping the minister that came down there on weekends, he’d gotten a part time job, and he got his kids back. Life was tough, but God always gave him everything he needed for the day, and he made it through.
When I pulled over, Mario ran to the car and exclaimed how glad he was to see me and how God had just had perfect timing. He hopped in the car and explained how his job had cut back on his hours and he was desperate for help to feed his kids. Hearing this cut into my heart, as I was experiencing some major financial problems myself, so I didn’t know how I was going to help him. He moaned that he was doing everything he could but now he was getting desperate. He was starting to get some of the old thoughts into his head, and said he was about to do something stupid. I knew he meant he was headed to steal something or rob someone. We talked about how maybe he was relying on his own strength to get things done, and maybe he should rely on God. After all, God can arrange circumstances, and bring the right people into our lives. Mario admitted that he had been relying on himself, and said he was going to try to trust God to take care of the situation.
We pulled up to pick up Bob, and I introduced them to each other. Mario was too preoccupied with his situation to say much of anything to Bob. He kept talking to me about how helpless he felt trying to get some food to feed his kids. As we turned the corner, Bob said, “Pull into this Kroger’s here.” I was surprised, but did as he asked. We parked and Bob got out and told Mario to go with him into the store, and that he was going to get him some groceries. I was shocked, knowing how little Bob had, and Mario didn’t know what to say. I just followed them into the store. Bob grabbed a cart and started down the bread aisle. Mario asked if he could get a loaf of bread, and Bob said, “No let’s get a couple of loaves.” He asked him if he liked this or that, and Mario would sheepishly nod his head. Whenever I get people groceries, I usually get the bare minimum – ramen noodles, bread and bologna. Nothing expensive – just the basics to get them through. So I was flabbergasted when we got to the meat aisle, and Bob started suggesting some of this chicken, and how about some of those steaks? Bob ended up getting him a weeks worth of groceries and using a large part of his food stamps.
We dropped Mario off at his home, and Mario had tears in his eyes. Here was a man that he had never met before, doing all this for him - Someone that had almost nothing, but what little he had he shared. The two shook hands and gave each other a little side hug, both saying “God bless you.” Bob and I headed off to church, and I asked him what he was going to do for food now. He said he’d make it, but said it was worth it for the feeling he had now, having been able to help someone. He said it was what Jesus would have done.