Happiness

Bud Garrison & John Dobbs

Yesterday’s highlight, for me, was getting a phone call from my friend Bud. I met Bud and Cathy after Katrina, even though they live down the street from me. They have been attending worship at Central for several months now. When I taught a class called “Welcome to Central”, Bud communicated to me that he was thinking about being baptized, but that he would think it through thoroughly before making any big decisions. In the intervening months, I have fallen in love with this wonderful couple. Cathy has cooked and worked with volunteers and is very involved in service projects involving the community. Bud is always an encourager, and knows how to keep everyone’s spirits lifted. He is a Bible studier, blog reader, and avid golfer. I know the Garrisons wouldn’t want me to tell you that they cooked and provided Christmas dinner for a trailer park with several damaged trailers that people are living in.  The thing I like about Bud and Cathy is that they do not do these things so that others will think highly of them. They do them quietly, as all servants do. Well, the phone call was Bud’s request to be baptized. So yesterday afternoon we met at our building and Bud obeyed the gospel of Christ. I am so grateful for the way God has used this horrible storm to bring together so many people to his glory. Bud wrote in a comment on a blog post, “Yesterday I came home from baptism and a feeling of deep calm and happiness I have never experienced came over me and still remains; not giddiness but the confidence of Gods love and guidance for me. My prayer is for all the people with demons to find the love of God that I have realized. My mission is to share that love and to spread the word of Jesus.” Amen!

Last night after John Robert got off of work, we went over to D’Iberville to have a late supper and go to a movie. We settled on The Pursuit of Happyness. Will Smith portrays the true story of Chris Gardner, a father who finds himself and his five year old son homeless. Chris works hard to get an internship with a stock brokerage firm and achieves that goal. However, that means he must work for six months, with no pay, and only have a chance to get a permanent job with the firm. The movie portrays something that David Kilbern and I talk about often. When you are down in your life (financially, mentally, otherwise) and you are trying to get back on your feet, it takes so little to knock you back down.

Have you ever thought what you would do if you and your children were on the streets and it was night time, and there was no place to go to sleep? Of course the first thing that comes to my mind is that I belong to a great church family and I could call on them for help and shelter. True. And my family did live with three other families after Katrina. But that was a special circumstance. How many of our homes are open to homeless jobless people that may never leave once they get in – even people we know? We might be available for a night or two, but that does not solve the situation. I like the way the movie presents the shelter situation. There are not enough shelter beds available for the number of homeless people that exist. How many churches of Christ have homeless shelters? No, you can’t take the easy way out and think that the church will take care of you.

Let’s face it, life on the street is unthinkable to most of us. We have no clue what it’s like to sleep standing up in a doorway or under a park bench. We do not know what it is like to know that we cannot care for our own children or provide the essentials of life for them. And we do not comprehend at all the immense struggle it is to escape this lifestyle. I hope you are reading HOMELESS MAN SPEAKS.  There’s some honest insight into the problem for you. “Get a Job” is good advice. Who can provide food and shelter on minimum wage? Many of us are barely hanging on month to month and earn much more than that.

So what is the Kingdom response to all of this? And why are we building fancy and beautiful facilities that look like palaces? Do we think God is impressed with our chandeliers and stained glass? And do we think that smelly unshaven homeless men with dirty clothes would feel welcomed into a place like that? What if every church in America had a place for ten people to sleep, eat, and shower each night. Would that make a dent in the problem? What if every church in America operated a free daycare for single parents who make minimum wage? And we haven’t even started to think about the plight of our senior citizens in America. I’ve got lots of questions, but few answers. As LARRY JAMES points out, this is a kingdom issue.

So, I liked the movie The Pursuit of Happyness. It is a true story of struggle and triumph, but maybe it lets us off the hook a little too easy.  The issues of homelessness, inadequate daycare for children, the impact of poverty on marital relationships, the shame of poverty, and the willingness to work hard for our dreams are all key to the greatness of this film. While I do not decry happy endings, I do think we might be tempted to believe that if we just sacrifice and work hard, everything will be OK in the end. For most homeless people, this is not the reality. Did you see the movie? What did you think?

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