Thanksgiving was a great day, albeit a quick 24 hours. I spent the afternoon walking around Byrd Park with my camera and had a few conversations with God. I walked with the sun as it set on the lake and wilderness. The colors were just brilliant. What a gift to witness. Then it was off to my Aunt Carolyn’s house for the traditional turkey casserole, football, wine and laziness. There were some family members missing due to trips or illness but otherwise, we all had a nice time.
However the blessing came earlier in the day for me. My church First Baptist, Richmond, hosted 80 guests this week through CARITAS. CARITAS, Congregations Around Richmond Involved to Assure Shelter, is a yearlong program that partners with congregations in the metro Richmond area to provide shelter, meals and other necessities for the homeless. Churches take in a group for a week and welcome the guests with all they can, including a warm place to sleep every night. I worked with the program 15 years ago when dear friends, Bill and Mary Dell Sigler introduced it to our home church. I ran the program with our church for about 5 years. It was and still is, an important ministry very near and dear to my heart.
On this day I had the opportunity to fellowship with our guests as members of the church provided a Thanksgiving lunch. I sat with one particular group of gentleman who were laughing and having a good time. They invited me to join in. With the annual Redskins and Cowboys football game later that afternoon, they were talking football and telling jokes, as they enjoyed all the fixings of Thanksgiving, including second helpings.
I sat next to David. He and I talked for a while. We laughed and discussed general topics at first but as our conversation continued, David started to share with me what got him into CARITAS and his plans to get out. What I noticed throughout the conversation was the fact that he was never down about his circumstances. He recognized what he needed to do and was determined to do it. David was thankful for the opportunity that CARITAS provided for him, to get back on his feet and build his confidence to get back into the world. The thing is, David is already in the world and without programs like CARITAS, could very well have been neglected and ignored on the street. With this assistance, David is able to work towards getting what he needs and have a place to sleep, while continuing to search for a job.
David was not down at all about his situation. He used phrases like, “this is temporary. I will get through this. I won’t be here long.” His spirit was strong. He thanked God for being with him the entire time. David knew that God was going to get him through this, with the strength, wisdom and determination in not giving up on himself, just like God hasn’t given up on David. He is giving back to God, in the way God is giving to him. He shared that an old acquaintance saw David the other day and gave him $100. David turned around and immediately gave 10% to the Pastor. He knew it was the right thing to do in giving back, as he had been given. What a gift to hear. I was hoping the smile on my face was hiding the tears welling up in my eyes as I listened. What a wonderful testimony to be a part of. What a wonderful inspiration. What a wonderful spirit. What a gift to witness.
David proclaimed that he was stuffed and needed to move around. It was my cue to finish our conversation. I asked David if I could pray with him and without a thought he said, “I won’t pass down prayer any day.” He told me what he would like me to pray for. Then we held hands and I prayed. David thanked me for the prayer and for listening to him. He said I was a blessing to him on this Thanksgiving Day.
No David. You were a blessing to me and I’ve been thanking God ever since.