Funny, isn’t it, how authentic strength is so often discovered after times of brokenness and weakness?
I’ve seen this dynamic at work here at Central Dallas Ministries again and again over the last fifteen years.
At times, the principle can be observed organizationally. We’ve come through many challenging times as we’ve faced the harsh realities associated with extreme poverty, lack of opportunity, systemic injustice and insufficient resources to do what was most needed at the time. In every case, we’ve come out “on the other side” a stronger, more informed and fully determined team of people dedicated to the importance of community development and connecting people to people across all sorts of barriers and dividing lines that sap strength from us all.
Then, on many other occasions, I’ve observed amazing strength emerging from weakness in the lives of individuals who’ve come into the world of CDM.
Today, I’m thinking of Lloyd.
When he first came to the Food Pantry, Lloyd was just out of prison. A big, strong, street-wise, cynical and scheming fellow, Lloyd asked us for food and accepted our invitation to volunteer to help the community. He later confessed to me that his real intentions were to “scope us out and steal us blind.” He intended to steal food out the back door, sell it on the street and feed his hungry drug habit.
On that first day, Lloyd worked in the warehouse stacking food and unloading our large delivery truck. At the end of that first day, Lloyd experienced a feeling he had not enjoyed in a long, long time.
He told me, “I felt like I had done something worthwhile, like my day made a difference. I still hadn’t given up my plan to steal the food, but I felt something very new.”
Adding to Lloyd’s confusion, Marva Epperson, director of the food handling process at the time, approached him at the end of the day and invited him to come back the next day.
“Larry, do you know how long it had been since I had been ‘invited back” anywhere! Most people would run when they saw me coming!” he told me months later.
Before long, Lloyd was helping with just about every task, including organizing the warehouse, driving the delivery truck—he’d worked as a truck driver before going to prison—and even attending the Central Dallas Church.
Lloyd ended up being released from probation and its supervision earlier than anyone in memory here in Dallas County.
He maintains his sobriety today. He was united with his family, landed a permanent job driving a truck again, became a leader in the church and continues to live in his hard-won, new-found, authentic strength.
Lloyd provides an example of a tough, broken man who found his way to strength in community.
This is our work.