Folks usually think he’s drunk or on drugs but it’s the disease that makes his body jerk and his words spit and sputter like an old engine. He’s used to the stares, used to being treated like he’s dangerous or derelict. He’s used to it but it still hurts. He’s found it best to stay to himself most of the time. He slept in his car and most nights, it was okay but then the weather took a horrible turn. The driver’s side window finally broke for good, so he taped a piece of old plastic over the opening but frigid air, biting wind and icy rain still found their way inside. He huddled in a corner, trying his best to stay warm. One morning, he woke up and realized he could quite easily freeze to death. He knew he needed help so he came to Mission Granbury.
As he made his way to the glass window, he could tell his appearance and awkward gait were making the receptionist uncomfortable. But she was kind and asked him to have a seat while she got the Case Manager. “Pat,” she said, “there’s a homeless man here who needs some help and he doesn’t look good,” she said. In the adjacent office, Sam, our Counselor, overheard the conversation and went to see if Pat needed him to help.
The receptionist had been right; this man looked like he was freezing, even though he was inside the building. He had obviously been exposed to the elements for some time. “I’ll be right back,” Sam told the man and he headed to our Resale Shop. Minutes later, he returned with a gently used, heavy duty winter coat with nice plush lining and big pockets. He handed the coat to the man who stared at him in disbelief. “Tha-tha-that for me?” he asked. “Yes, here put it on,” Sam responded. The man wrapped himself in the big coat and stuck his hands deep into the warm pockets. “Thi-thi-this is a mighty fi-fi-fine coat,” he said quietly. “It’s going to be awful cold for the next few nights,” Pat told the man with concern in her voice. “Do you have anywhere to stay besides your car?”
His story was not so different from the others. He was staying with a friend – it didn’t work out – he had to leave. But another friend from out of town offered to come get him but not until the weekend. He struggled through telling his story, the words falling out in stuttered fragments . . . but he really didn’t have to say it. Anyone could have read it in his eyes. “Let us get you a room for a couple of nights until your friend can get here,” Pat said. “We’ll get you some emergency food and you can take a hot bath.” His eyes lit up. “A hot bath!” he repeated softly. Pat made the arrangements and she and Sam offered to take him to the motel. When Pat told the motel owner about the guest they were bringing, he ordered the man a pizza so he could have a hot meal.
This is who we are in this town. Whoever brought us that mighty fine coat will never know it was worth a King’s ransom to this man. The many congregations and private donors who support us can rest assured their funds quite likely saved this man’s life. And the hot bath and pizza – those were God’s little cherries on the cake. As Sam and Pat were leaving, the man walked out to their cars, in his mighty fine coat, and humbly and graciously told them he didn’t know how to thank them. Through tears, Pat assured him no thanks was necessary. As he walked back inside, they both knew the real blessing belonged to them.