I met the executive director of World Vision in the Twin Cities, Chris Brooks, to find out about employment in a non-profit organization. However, in my 40 minute meeting with Chris at Caribou, I learned more about myself.
Chris is not only passionate and approachable, but he also exudes self-awareness and focus. One thing that surprised me is that he writes elaborate personal journal entries embellished by photographs and markers. He has been working with youth development and now with business relations, but is finding time to adopt two more kids (expanding his family from 4 to 6) and is determined to begin a youth development program in Jamaica.
While I was learning all about his life and ministry, he stuck in a few questions that made me re-evaluate my life. He asked:
1.) What is it that makes me most angry?
I answered: Abused persons, especially women and children (physically, mentally, emotionally, etc)
2.) Where are these people?
A: Everywhere, there is probably even one in this Caribou.
3.) Who is the person who knows you the best?
A: My boyfriend, my best friends.
He ultimately told me that I need to self-evaluate and find a focus, a passion I can run with. This is true; I am all over the board with too many things I want to try first-hand. Chris also told me that the person who should know me the best is the same person who has changed my diapers and been there for life, my mother.
I felt convicted. He exhibited so much passion for what he is doing; I wanted that too, and I know that he has a lot of respect for his parents.
At the end of the meeting, he gave me a $10 bill. He told me to give it to whoever needs it the most in the next 18 hours.
This task gave me a whole new perspective. I felt completely humble: a man whom I admired, gave me, a practical stranger, money that he had worked hard to earn and that I had not earned at all. I admired his passion and wanted to invest his money in a way that would make him proud.
Whoa. That’s what God wants from me.
God gives what we don’t deserve. He shows us his ways, he lives his life with focus, passion, love. His desire is to inspire us to do the same, to better understand his will. I believe that God does not love according to deeds of men or woman. I believe God loves each person the most he or she could ever be loved, despite what this person may choose to do with this gift of love.
So I prayed. I soon realized that not many people needed ten dollars. I almost donated it to the intercultural study-abroad program. But I didn’t. I wanted a story.
It was 86 degrees outside. What ran through my head were images of homeless people, the panhandlers off freeways in Maplewood. I did not want to give them money, because honestly, it would probably go to drugs. So I bought a case of 24 bottles of water (on sale for $3.19) and a pack of Cub Food granola bars. My change was $1 and some cents. I gave the dollar and a bottle of water to a man holding up a sign with “Huggies diapers” on it. Maybe I should’ve bought diapers.
Then, the only other man I found was on White Bear Avenue and 694. He was holding up a peace and love sign. I parked a few blocks away and walked over to him.
His name is Shane, he also goes by the name HIPPIE (Happy Intelligent Person Persuing Infinite Enlightenment). He is 53, a few days younger than my dad. He has long hair, black pants, a baseball cap. He loves the Grateful Dead (Jerry Garcia), the 70s, a group called Welcome Home, and alcohol. I just sat with him, listened. He pulled up a chair for me (his backpack) and when I gave him a water bottle and a granola bar. He offered me a granola bar back.
Honestly, this man seemed happy. He had no complaints, he had warm and fuzzy feelings for the people driving by. He doesn’t mind Minnesota winters. He calls himself a “free spirit.” His biggest bragging right is the fact that he hasn’t shot heroine in 22 years. He still has scars from the needles. He doesn’t even smoke Marijuana anymore, however, he does love to drink. He admitted it, but I could tell before he opened his mouth.
He lives beneath the bridge on White Bear Avenue, in the Kmart parking lot, in the woods off the freeways. He came from South Dakota; he used to work in a soup kitchen for Cornerstone Rescue Mission, with his wife. He has children about my age.
His family has rejected him. “I am too much like my father, so they wouldn’t have me” he says. His father and mother died when he was 9 years old, in a car accident. They were both drinkers as well.
The only area apparently making him broken, by his standards, was his disconnection to his family. We had more in common than I thought. And with that, I had nothing to offer him. We sat, two broken individuals: a hippie, and a self-employed cosmetologist on the edge of the road, both desiring peace and love, both sitting in the same quicksand.
The difference is that I know that Jesus reconciles, I have that hope in my head. It just needs to transfer to my heart as a revelation. Knowing and believing, believing and doing…I can hardly group these concepts into the same sentence.
That night I volunteered with Streetlight for the first time. Normally they volunteer in a soup kitchen at the Marie Sandvik Center and hand out items from the Salvation Army Center. That night we did a prayer walk over the city. We went from 4:30 p.m. to 10p.m. without dinner. We were hungry and thirsty. I wished I had brought the water bottles and granola bars. I had failed to recognize that sometimes the people closest to myself are the people most in need.
I got some catcalls. This is not bragging: this angers me. My pet peeve is when an individual treats another individual as an object, rather than a person, based on her or his appearance. The third time it happened I faced him straight on. It was a group of men, some might describe as “ghetto.” They were waiting at a “sketchy” bus stop. I introduced myself. He was taken back, but still making sure he was cool in front of his buddies by telling me “I love you.” I told him we were praying, “Do you have any prayer requests?” We talked for a while and I asked him about his life, and what he wanted for the future. Turns out he wants to go to the U of M, for architecture. So that he could buy a Ducati someday. After five minutes of conversing, we left.
I was glad that I was leaving as a name, not just a pretty face.
I was glad that I was leaving with his name, not just another stereotype.
After all, names drive the changes happening in the world.