I was going to try and delay this post, but I just can’t. The emotions are on my sleeve, so I figured I needed to get it all out. My post is a bit raw, so forgive me.
Today, I got to ride along with Gary who runs our church food ministry. We went to pick up 10,000 pounds of food from the annual Walk and Knock which was his largest pickup all year. It was a big day for Gary and his volunteers so I was quite honored to witness the event. This is Gary.and these are boxes of food being loaded into our trucks…
Gary has been in the “food ministry business” for eight years now and has seen a lot of stuff. Last month alone he served 2,700 people a meal. Every Friday he hands out groceries to 250 to 350 families. He runs a soup kitchen four days a week. Gary cares for “the least of these.”
He has been through it all too. A drug addict for 20 years, married for 25 years and still married, homeless twice, he has 5 children, and 6 foster children, he is now saved from addiction, a born again Christian, he now runs a full time volunteer minister to the hungry, the homeless, the fatherless, the broken, the empty, the drug addicted, alcoholics, elderly, multiple-personalities, and crazy loonytunes.
But what gets Gary the very most is the children. 60 plus children show up on Friday nights with their parents. I saw Gary’s heart break and his eyes swell up with tears. He told me how it pains him to see children who live in impoverished conditions right here in America. “Often they are growing up with drug addicted parents and know nothing different,” he said. “They think this is normal and it sucks.”
After we picked up the 10,000 pounds of food we drove back to the church and were greeted by a group of guys for unloading. After all the crates were unloaded we went to have lunch at the soup kitchen.
Today, about 60 people showed up and we ate a hot bowl of chicken and wild rice soup. Perfect on a day that was a frigid 20 degrees. I watched one man lift his hand to his mouth with his spoon of soup and his hand trembled. I kept thinking….how does the soup stay on the spoon?
We prayed with a bunch of people that live under the bridge. One of their friends had died of a heroin overdose which had shaken them all up. Gary cried. He told me later that this man was his friend. He said, “I kept hoping for ‘George’. I kept thinking he would get off the streets.” He cried as he told me of his love for this homeless man.
After lunch we went out for another food pick up in Portland. Eggnog and Potato Salad in very large quantities. On the way, Gary told me about the homeless. He told me about Mark, who lived under the bridge. He said Mark went through a difficult divorce and lost everything. In the process he did not fight for much and ended up having to pay a lot of child support. Mark loved his son so much he didn’t complain about the child support, but could not afford to pay his rent and child support so he ended up being homeless. He would go to work everyday, live under the bridge at night, and paid his child support. Gary said not everyone who lives under the bridge are drug addicts.
He then told me about another guy who lived under the bridge. He said this guy lost his wife to cancer. It was a slow and painful death and this guy watched the love of his life wither away. In the process he started to drink. He lost his job, his church kicked him out for drinking, and he ended up homeless. “Its easy to judge these people. It’s easy to think they are second class, but they all have a story. They deserve God’s love.”
I asked Gary what he does when he sees people with signs on the streets. “Do you give them money?” He said, “No way, I don’t want to support their death.” I asked him what he meant and he told me most of these guys are supporting a heroin addiction. I asked, “What do you do then?”
Gary said, “I feed them.”
I realized today that there is a hero in our midst. His name is Gary.
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