I want to relate to you what a client named “Jack” shared at a recent Bible study. This is a time when the street folks can come inside for two hours from the 100+ heat into the air conditioning of a room at a local church. We begin with an ice breaker, but Jack was so excited that he wanted to share something else.
“I was waiting at the Salvation Army to get to eat at 4:00. There were a lot of people waiting with me. I don’t usually talk much because some of those people are crazy and some of them just don’t know when to be quiet. However, this one old lady kept getting my attention and kept talking to me. She had white hair and walked with a cane. She kept asking if anyone would help her pick up her medication from a Walgreen’s on Riverside. Eventually I said I would.”
Jack is typical, although I loathe to describe any of the human clients of Street Youth Ministry with that word, of street dependent folks I serve. He’s quite old for my group but he fits in. He has a drug use background. He has 10 year old felony convictions associated with that way of life. He left that way of life behind 4 years ago, although he can’t seem to get off the streets. Jack always looks clean and is always polite. He reads his Bible regularly. He battles depression and recently fell off the wagon. That scared him so much he hasn’t used drugs a second time but it was a terrible reminder that he is still recovering.
“We sat together at the Salvation Army meal. She talked constantly but it turns out she was funny and told very good stories. I enjoyed talking with her. Then we went to get her medicines. We rode the bus together and I helped her cross the highway and several busy streets to get to the store that had her medicines. Then I told her about a shelter for women that might take her in for the night and put her on a bus going that direction.”
“It just felt good. So good to be doing something selfless. I have received so much help over the years and I wasn’t worthy of it. To be doing something to give back just felt so good.”
I told Jack that it sounded to me like he had a natural high after doing this. Could he relate to this? “Yeah, it seemed like that. But when I did drugs–when I do drugs–I get high but it also feels like a little piece of me goes away. A chunk of who I am dies and falls away each time I do drugs.” Jack motioned with his hands as a fist sized part of his head breaks off and fall away to the ground and shatters.
“But when I was helping her, the high I felt seemed to put something back inside me. It was as if a little piece of me was restored. A little part of me came back. I really liked that.”
Everyone in the room agreed that this happens but none could articulate it as clearly as Jack. It was a wonderful and authentic moment that I will cherish for a long while.