I was there at your side when…
I patiently listened as you came out of your stupor and told me about your family life, being a high school dropout, getting in trouble with the law, falling into your alcoholism, and having no place to call home. I carefully listened as you spoke…and I did so at no cost to you.
I took you into my small apartment and gave you housing, a chance to shower, to eat some food, to be given fresh clothes, and to get some badly needed comfortable and lengthy sleep…and I did so at no cost to you.
I heard on the street you were in the hospital…and I visited you, assured you things would get better, held your hand as tears streamed down your cheeks, shared my prayers with you, and welcomed you back when you were released from the hospital…and I did so at no cost to you.
I was there when you got into trouble with police. I was poor and could not afford to pay the bond. But, I spent time traveling so I could visit you in jail. I put $20.00 into your canteen account. Usually I barely had $20.00 for myself…and I did so at no cost to you.
I spent three years from April through October feeding you in the neighborhood park. I made certain the food was top quality food and not usually just the cheapest food. You needed nutritious foods. Remember you, me, and those other men and women would gather, tell stories, laugh, and even listen as maybe one of us was upset…Remember those three years I fed you lunch in the park?… and I did so at no cost to you.
I saw you lying there on the nearby sidewalk and could barely help you up. I got you up to my place. I let you sleep it off. I gave you an aspirin, food, and suggested you stay. I welcomed you, a stranger into my small and modest dwelling: a quiet place where you could be certain of true concern, care, sincere friendship and a man you both knew and trusted would do you no harm. I did that for you because of God’s gift of compassion…and I did so at no cost to you.
When you were unjustly arrested and placed into lock-up I knew you really needed and had the right to legal counsel. I made the connection and they represented you and you were absolved of any charges. I deeply appreciated everyone who helped to protect you. I knew under all your tough words, there is a gentle soul…and I did so at no cost to you.
You called me up and told me an elderly neighbor had just returned home after being hospitalized for a minor stroke, and she had no food. You asked me if I would deliver food to she and her family. At your request, I stopped what I was doing, and picked you up and you directed me to this elderly lady’s house. I gave a bag of food to her son. I did what you asked of me…and I did so at no cost to you.
You called me late on many occasions to tell me there was an adult, or adults with little children, and that they needed emergency housing that very night in order to get out of the frigid temperatures. I heard you and I got up out of bed and drove downtown in those frigid temperatures. I walked into the old motel, met the mom and dad or partner, and I paid for their room. Also, I gave them a full bag of groceries. I asked the mom that if she was leaving the next day, that she would NOT waste food. If there was food she did not need or intend to use, I asked each mom to give that food to another mother staying at that old motel. She was grateful and assured me she would share. I gave her my card and told her if she or friends needed more help, just call me…and I did so at no cost to you.
You called all excited one evening and told me there were families who did not have proper winter coats to fend off that dreadful frigid weather. I met with you and throughout that severe winter gave out free winter coats to men, women and children. Before that long winter ended, I had given out more than 250 good winter coats. Many were brand new, others lightly used…all gifts to the least among God’s peoples…and I did so at no cost to you.
Remember that Thanksgiving when I asked you to gather the names and sizes of families who would need turkey and or other foods for Thanksgiving? You put together a list and that Thanksgiving we gave out 175 turkeys with all the fixings to families in need. Most of them never even met me or the countless people who worked together to provide a Happy Thanksgiving to some of the less fortunate right here in our community…and I did so at no cost to you.
You called me and told me your elderly grandma had just gotten out of rehabilitation and that her utility bill was way past due and they were about to turn off her heat in the midst of frigid temperatures. I drove over to your grandma’s house and talked with her. I took her a bag filled with food. She gave me a copy of her utility bill. The balance due was over $1,000.00. I called that utility firm and explained all could and would be paid by our church but had to happen over two months. The lady at the utility firm and I had worked together in the past. She knew my word was good. Her utility bill was paid up in full by the end of the next month…and I did so at no cost to you.
You asked me to help you get off the street. I assured you the practical answer is that you get a part-time job from about 9a.m. to 1p.m. Then take a break, go home, eat and rest. Then about 4 or 5 p.m. get another part-time job and work it. I assured you, you would receive two paychecks for your working. And I instructed you to save that money for at least two months. I strongly suggested you use the money to rent a room, buy a mattress and the needed linen. Buy a small refrigerator, a few lamps and some fresh work clothes. This would provide you with stability, a basic foundation and a place where you could rest your head. My advice is simple, practical and works. I shared my practical advice with you…and I did so at no cost to you.
I saw you crying over at the side of a local gas station and food store. I went over and asked you what was wrong. You showed me your hospital band. I asked, what happened? You told me your lover beat you and you had nowhere to go. I told you about resources available and ladies willing to help you. You asked me to buy you a beer. I said no. Rather, I went into the store and bought you a simple sandwich, chips and a soda. Then you asked me to get you a room at the local motel. I drove you there, paid for your room, and gave you a bag of groceries. All I asked was that you get your rest, clean up and just stay safe….and I did so at no cost to you.
You called me that weekend afternoon. You mentioned you really needed your diabetes prescription and accessories and did not have the money. I drove to pick you up at home, went to the local pharmacy with you, and paid for your prescription and accessories. Then I drove you home and told you not to wait till you were out of your medicines and to call me well before you might run out of the prescription… and I did so at no cost to you.
Repeatedly you and many others came knocking on my door asking for financial and other help in helping to purchase a grave, gravestone or burial for those who came before us. I provided b $25,000 in funds to help place gravestones over those who had died years ago, even decades ago. I gave graves to your family members who more recently had died and sat as ashes on one of your shelves or put away inside some closet. I listened to you and your heartfelt desire to bury the dead and to provide a place and identity for your loved ones. I welcomed you. I paid part, most of, and even all the expenses for you and many other families….and I did so at little or no cost to you.
One day as I was driving along after visiting an elderly person at your request, you looked at me and told me if I was some undercover agent that a man you know, said he would kill you for introducing me to your friends and families in need. When I reached a stop sign. I put my truck in park. I put my right arm down between us and I told you to put your arm next to mine. I said, “You know that you call me a white man, but my skin is nothing close to white; at best its a dark shade of beige. I looked at your arm and told you, “Look, your arm is far from black. At best it’s a light brown.” Your friend said what he said about my being an undercover cop mainly because I am white. Tell your friend there are only two kinds of people walking this planet…and that is man and woman and their children, boys and girls. I am not a white man! Rather, I am a man who is human. You are not a black man. Rather you are a man who is human. Every person is a human being, a pure gift from God, and is invited and prompted by God to draw near. Get over your racism. Learn to accept, live with, and recognize and cherish our common thread—our humanity, our common human nature—a pure gift from our beloved God. Recognize this and I promise you, your future will be easier. Learn to love, even those you might not like. I shared this ancient invaluable heartfelt wisdom with you… and I did so at no cost to you.
God has granted you this one lifetime. Go forth as a modern disciple of Christ. Be willing to open your frail human heart. Be courageous. Like Christ you will experience those times in life when you are crucified in the Holy Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Be willing to get through the darkness of those hours. You will never be alone. Our Lord is always with you. When other people are accusing you, or throwing out words filled with half-truths, lies and threats, know our Lord walks in your company. You get this one lifetime. Spend it in the company of Christ. When you fall short, own it…keenly aware there is a new dawn, a new morning and a new day. You will discover the renewal brought forth by your devout life lived in the company of our Risen Lord Jesus Christ. Walk humbly in the company of Christ. In the end, be at peace with yourself, the people in your life, society, and with our dearly beloved Lord. Do so, be at peace with all, and salvation will be yours for the asking. Lastly, let me ask you to pray for me as I pray for you. I shared this spiritual wisdom…and I did so at no cost to you.
-Father Michael Briese