So earlier this year, our church had a baptism service. There was one older man being baptized who needed assistance in and out of the giant tub, and I was asked to help. His name was Richard. He had entered our church body through our Monday morning food pantry service. As it turned out, he needed more help than expected...and as I helped him change out of his wet clothes post-baptism, our brief friendship began.
He was a quiet man, with a crippled arm, and a handicap that impacted his ability to speak well. I never got much more than a few words, several grunts, a "yep", and a smile. He came to services here and there, and always seemed pleased to be around.
Our church had an outdoor service/BB-Q back in September. Richard showed up early, while we were still setting up things. He just sat and smiled, grunting a hello to anyone who greeted him. As the crowds gathered, he lent his good arm out to moving tables as he could. He collected a mound of food, and sat purposefully by himself. At the end of the event, he gathered as many leftovers as one arm could carry, and smiled on his way.
A week or so later, he came in asking for any food we could spare from our pantry. Through a short discussion, we learned that Richard had been living out of his vehicle for a few months now. I was more than a little ashamed on our behalf for not knowing this ahead of time. We began taking up collections for Richard, as well as working towards finding him housing through a local organization.
Last Friday, things came together. It looked like we had found a place. Unfortunately his representative had Friday's off, and the lady in charge of the apartments was out of town for the weekend. We had to tell Richard to wait a few more days in his car, and come back monday. Which was really hard to do, knowing how many couches we have in this church.
Monday morning, we learned Richard had suffered a stroke during the evening.
By Tuesday morning, he had passed away.
The money we've gathered will help cover the costs of his funeral arrangements (this Friday, 11am). But what Richard has offered to those who will grow from this experience is worth more than money.
We have opportunity to show love to someone God loves today. People are without food. People are without shelter. There are people who cannot speak for themselves, and need an advocate.
Thanks Richard, for sharing yourself with us for the time we had with you. Sorry I didn't offer you a couch, for whatever reasons. Enjoy paradise....we love you. (grunt, smile)
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