Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Least of These

Homeless ChristRecently I was given the news that longtime friends of our family lost their son in an automobile accident. He was a passenger in an SUV that went off the highway. Eric was 48 years old and was an alcoholic and homeless. His chosen life path broke the heart of his parents. All these years his parents were able to keep in contact with him through visits and on occasion would give him money when he needed some, although as you might imagine, it was wasted on alcohol and whatever else. A few weeks before his death, his mother asked Eric if there was something he could change about his life what would it be? We were all puzzled by his response, he said "nothing, I'm happy with my life".

Eric was quite a few years older than I was, so I remember very little about him growing up. I knew him to be a "nice guy" and was the older brother of a friend of mine, and a girl I grew up playing softball with. It was still always so sad to hear that Eric was an alcoholic and homeless, and I could never really grasp how someone could just waste their life that way...someone that I knew!

My mom forwarded an email that Eric's mother sent. He had some things in storage, which his parent's obviously paid for, and so they had to clean that all out. They also learned something about their son that helped to ease some of the pain from his death, as well as the pain of the life he chose.

With permission, I'm posting an excerpt of the letter from Eric's mom:
Spent Tuesday in Tampa at the Crematory, Eric's storage bin, and a visit to his neighborhood. It was an exhausting day physically & emotionally. We did it all in one day & returned home by 8PM. In his neighborhood we had a WONDERFUL conversation with the cafe' and thrift shop manager that is across from the car wash where he worked. She hunted us down as she said she HAD to talk to us to tell us what all Eric did for them, willingly and lovingly. She had to let us know how he was so loved in the neighborhood. She & her father-in-law went on & telling of many wonderful things he did. Three days before the accident, he helped another guy in 100o heat to put on a metal roof on his newly purchased building. All this did our hearts good as (you know) we saw only the alcohol & its results. They have a ministry for "rejuvenating" girls. They have taken (only 6 at a time) fed & housed them to get them off the street. One is now earning her masters degree & another is in her third year of nurses training. Its religiously based and they certainly live the true Christian life. The girls stay there & help with the other new girls. They want to open (in the future) a men's quarters and Eric was going to be one of the clients. When she opens the men's branch, it will be in Eric's name. She said "You certainly did a great job of raising him to be a very loving person. They also said he was a spiritual person and would always bless them with the sign of the cross. I think the "Princes" had a hand in that development and we thank you for the time you devoted to the Search program which he really loved!!
We all saw a wasted life of someone so capable of more. We saw the alcohol, the homelessness, but God saw something different.

This is from the "personal" note Eric's mom, Irene added to her email to my mom:
Eric was involved in working for this group which was housed across the street where he lived. We have met the directors several times and they are truly Christian loving people. The internet states "Meeting the spiritual, emotional, physical, and academic needs of troubled women". She couldn't praise Eric enough for all he did for the organization. We learned a lot more about him. This organization is now for women only but they hope to expand it into a mens program also. She said Eric was so excited about that prospect that when she does open it, it will be in his honor.

All this has shown us that we are using the wrong measuring stick for "success". After hearing what we heard abour Eric and witnessed what they are doing, that is success!!
I guess we ALL have a tendency to use the "wrong measuring stick".
Matthew 25:40

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
When we have no "use" for the least of these, God is raising them up, using them to minister.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, that is a beautiful story! I had never truly thought about what homeless people might be able to do for one another and for all those around them. I've always been of the opinion that I do what I can to help them, buy them a meal, offer clothes, etc. and that if I gave them money it was not of concern what they did with it, God tells us to help those less fortunate. I pray for them, that they will use whatever I am able to help with for a good reason and not bad. I had never realized or thought about how they can impact those around them in that way though. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story of what some might perceive as a life gone awry, but in reality was a life used for love and goodness, in the name of Jesus!