My morning with Al

Vanessa and I launched a lifestyle campaign last week called TIME = LOVE, so I wanted to share with you an opportunity I recently had, where I live. An opportunity that I pursued. An opportunity that I knew I would forever regret if I allowed it pass me by.

Let me back up a bit first...

I am a worship leader at my church and on the weekends that I am leading....I spend A LOT of time at church. All weekend long. I see many many faces, atleast I like to think I do. 

A few months ago, I noticed a man sitting outside of church–on the same bench–week after week. You know that feeling you get deep down inside....that prompts you to do something that you're not always comfortable doing?! Yea, well that happened.

So, I walked up to this man who was sitting on the bench, with what seemed to be all of his personal belongings stuffed tightly in plastic crates, wrapped with bungee cord. I introduced myself and conversation grew effortlessly. His name was Al. And Al was awesome. His laugh was infectious and his love for people and Jesus was so inspiring. I walked away thinking he is the epitome of “Even though……I will” Whatever those dots represent between those words [I have no money, Lost my job, Living on the streets]….I WILL get back up. And getting back up meant small steps like getting to Church every single weekend. That was inspiring to me.

After getting to know Al for a a few months [and learning that he was planning on leaving town for a warmer winter climate] I knew I wanted to give Al some amount of money to help him on his travels, but it was obvious to me that Al wasn’t just about the money. He was a people person. He mentioned that the hug I gave him the day we met, was the first hug he had been given in months! So, right then and there I knew that money wasn’t all I had in my possession to give. There was more……and something we all have……Al appreciated TIME and he greatly valued it.

In 2010, my dad unexpectedly passed away, and the message and legacy that my dad left on my life is all about TIME. My dad made time for me. He made time for strangers. He helped people out. He helped the down and out. He was very aware of those around him.

On September 23rd, which just so happened to be on my dad’s birthday [SO not a coincidence] ….I spent the morning with Al- enjoying breakfast and treating him to a haircut and straight razor shave. 

Al shared with me that he's been writing a book….a book of his life, his story, his travels. He showed me his street setup–what all he carries around in his roller pack, how his most precious and treasured items are carefully wrapped in plastic, inside paper bags.

Al shared his fears…..anxious thoughts that plague him, which most recently included whether or not I would even show up for breakfast or if he would be stood up. Obsessing over how people will react to him in public places, including the Church he attended and the breakfast joint we ate in. Sounds a lot like what you and I may be anxious about from time to time. Conversations like this bridged the differences we may have in this season of life….and boiled it all down to sheer fact that we are all human beings and more similar than we may think, once the veils are pulled away.

Before it was time to say our goodbyes, I asked him to tell me what he would tell the world if he had a microphone loud enough for all to hear….and this is what he said:

Don’t walk by like we have cancer, or we have the plague or leprosy. Find out where we came from before you judge us. It’s okay if you give us a dollar, but when people take the time, it’s worth so much more. People don’t take the time these days. They just don’t have the time. We are all from somewhere…we have all been places. We may have things that prevent us from keeping a job or prevent us from being a part of society. Just take the time…five minutes or ten minutes you sit there and watch tv or play with your gadgets, but you see someone on the side of the road holding up their sign and you don’t even take a moment to look up, smile or talk to them.”

And this was pretty amazing too:

I have to remind myself that I am a mighty warrior because sometimes I feel like I am not enough. I feel like I need to have more to do more, but those are lies from the enemy. I can still make a difference in this world. I’m a warrior.

Yes, I took Ezra along with me [and a friend- so we were NOT alone.] I want my son to see more of this in my/his life. I want him to learn from a young age that time and attention are things we all have in our possession to give, it’s how we choose to spend them that matters. I believe the lessons in life worth fighting for are to be taught by example. Words alone don’t always work.

Sometimes we face opposition and misunderstanding when doing good. Do it anyway.

Some people get so focused on good works being done without anyone knowing about it [and for the most part, I agree], but I also believe there is great power in sharing our stories and our experiences, especially when inspiration and courage rises up and leads to action.

We are called to be a Church In The Wild, as Pastor Carl Lentz so awesomely puts it. Don't be a church in the zoo, where you drive around in your car and look at all the animals. This life is nothing to be played with. EVERYDAY MATTERS. We can't afford to be sleepwalking. We are ambassadors of the Most High! A Church in the wild chooses to see what others have ignored. 

What are we choosing to ignore?

What can we get in the habit of doing on a daily or weekly basis that would remind us that its NOT about us? 

I thought I was approaching Al to serve him, to pay attention to him....and bless him, but do you want to know the honest to God truth? I NEEDED AL MORE THAN AL NEEDED ME. I love that God works this way.....This encounter rocked my world. I am forever changed.....

LOVE WRITES A BEAUTIFUL STORY….and I don’t ever want to miss out on that!

Be encouraged. Be inspired. Be brave. Be love.

Here's a glimpse in to my morning with Al......