By Joe Carr
A couple of days before the new year, I got a call from a local ministry friend. He told me that a minister he knows in California had met a young man in need of help. The young man (we'll call him, "Seth") had grown up in New Hampshire but had been living on the street after losing his job and all of his money due to his addictions. Seth had recently had something of a mystical experience where he felt as if he was suddenly awakened by someone while sleeping alone in an abandoned warehouse. This experience also seemed to awaken a desire in him for getting sober and putting his life back together. And so Seth went searching for help, and that is when he ran into this man that knows my friend. It was Christmas day. He and this minister met over lunch at Burger King. After hearing his story, this man offered to buy Seth a plane ticket home if he thought there would be someone there to see him get the help he needed.
I couldn't help but wonder why I was getting the pleasure of this nice story. That's when my buddy added, "So apparently this guy is standing on the curb at Logan airport and the folks who were supposed to meet him have changed their minds." Seth, not knowing who else to call, had reached back out to the minister in CA who had in turn called my friend who was out of town for the week. Since we live six minutes from the airport, I guess I was the obvious next phone call. "Yeah, give me his number and I'll arrange to pick him up."
I found Seth where we agreed to meet and he climbed into the car. After exchanging some pleasantry, he began telling me his story. His genuineness and authenticity drew me in. In fact, I was so enthralled by his story that I missed my exit and turned a six minute drive into twenty. It was Sunday and lunch at home was already being prepared. Seth was so happy to eat with us, meet our children and my parents who were still visiting after Christmas. We offered that he stay with us for the afternoon, join our Bible discussion group, and then we'd get him a place to stay.
The next morning, Seth and I got into our van and began driving towards New Hampshire. The whole time we were on the road, he was attempting to get in touch with old friends. He was looking for work and a temporary place to stay. (Yes, I was driving and I had no idea where he was needing me to take him!) Seth must have made 8 or 10 phone calls and wrote twice as many text messages. Eventually someone answered. This person knew Seth's situation, was glad to hear from him, and wanted to help. But the friend had a condition. "He wants me to call this other guy I know who runs a sober living house and see if I can get into the program," he relayed. There was a sudden silence in the car. I sensed hesitation. I guess I assumed that maybe Seth wasn't ready to make a permanent change. I was wrong. "I really want to do this, but I'm a little afraid that I won't get into the program since I don't have any insurance or any money." I encouraged him to call and find out more information.
Seth got off the phone. "He has a bed for me. It is two hundred a week." I nodded and said, "That's very reasonable; if your other friend has work for you, you could totally swing that. And maybe I can help with the first week's fee." His immediate gratitude showed and he started to cry.
It was one of the moments we long for in ministry. We want to help, but we're not sure if our small aid will make a difference or lead to lasting change. But you know that you never really know. What if helping a person this one time doesn't last? Does it mean we wasted our kindness? I mean, how many people can name the ONE act of love in our lives that keeps us going years later? It is possible for one moment to shape us, but it is much more likely that we have experienced a COLLECTION of kind acts that remind us of our worth and push us to move forward. Even if one demonstration of grace doesn't solely change a person, it could start to tip the scale. And if it not now, maybe it could be a difference-maker in the future.
The amazing news is that the kindness we were able to give to Seth--alongside that of many others--put him on a path toward lasting change. He told me so himself when I asked this morning if I could share his story. May we be about the business of tipping scales with our radical love and generosity this, and every, day. Thank you for your love and support and prayers as we do what we can.
Joe and Lauryn Carr
To Follow the Carrs' ministry in East Boston, visit their blog.