Leaning back in his chair, as we waited for one of our community meal celebrations to begin last Thursday, David began to open up. I was amazed at all the information that he freely volunteered to me and two or three others who stood around.
"I come here to keep my morality," he said. "I make the Overcomers meetings on Tuesdays. I go over to Smokey's too. It all helps to keep me in line."
David's complete story is not clear to me. Is any life story ever really clear? But, I know the basics without even asking.
My friend has had a fairly tough life. Mistakes. Disappointments from others and from himself. Somewhere in the mix you'll find alcohol and drug abuse, broken primary relationships, possibly some trouble with the law. Loneliness. Depression. Homelessness. At times, deep sadness.
Like so many other friends of mine, David walked into our place one day right off the streets. He needed food. He needed something to do. He needed to feel a part of something. He needed purpose. He needed hope.
Today he is one of our most trusted and valued volunteers. Loading and unloading trucks, helping people in trouble, generally supporting our daily operations by doing whatever he is asked to do and more.
People like David soon feel as if they own the place around here. That is always a very good sign.
A couple of months ago on a particularly busy day, I pulled into the parking lot behind the building. I managed to park with a front tire a bit over a yellow line. David approached me as I got out of the car.
"Sir, you'll need to try that again. As you can see, we are very busy today and parking is limited. No one gets more than one space. Thanks a lot!" he grinned, as he gave me directions.
"Yep, I don't know what I would do without this place," David continued talking to us before our meal. We chimed back that the place needed him and that he was a huge help to so many people every day.
"I know what it feels like to not want to get out of bed. Sometimes I slip back into that feeling. This place gets me up and keeps me going. I don't want to go back to that old way, I really don't," he reflected, now brushing away tears.
"I need this place and the people who are here. It is hard being all alone."
We all assured him he wasn't alone and that we needed exactly the same things that he needed.
David and friends like him remind me about the fragile and amazing nature of the human soul and of the absolute necessity of genuine community.
I'm thankful I know David. His life matters. Everyone matters.
Why is that so easy to forget?
December 8, 2013–second Sunday in Advent
19 hours ago