As mentioned in Part 1 an offer to work cleaning the church was accepted and ultimately played a major role in my life. We continued to have a healthy relationship with not only the leadership of the church itself, but also with many of the other folks in the church. Granted it wasn’t like a wand was waved over my head and all evil exited the building. Nothing of the sort. My using had slowed to a very low level. It was absolutely amazing how when we associated with let’s just call them “normal” folks for the picture I am trying to draw, how we found ourselves doing things that would occupy our time and doing it as a family. Things like barbecuing with friends, being invited to swim which allowed our kids to play and be normal, and going to small gatherings in homes to study and understand each other at a more personal level. With all this going on somehow all of these odd jobs were becoming available, which made good use of our time, which otherwise would have been spent destructively.
We were still somewhat homeless but with funds coming in from odd jobs we were now finding refuge with weekly arrangements which really was an improvement for our family as a whole, but especially in the safety of our children. In passing yet again the Pastor stopped me and well we spent some time in small talk when out of the blue he says “You know, you should do a clothes and food pantry here at the church.” I guess I just didn’t understand how this whole church thing went. My thinking was you had to work your way up in some special order until you became worthy of such a role? I’m not even sure what I thought, but “let’s not forget I am that same guy who was just sitting in your church not 60 days ago high on heroin when you decided I needed a job cleaning the church and offices! Now you want me to start a food pantry? Not to mention I don’t have any experience in food or clothes pantries!” He says “You’ll be fine. There’s a large room with an exterior door located downstairs where you can set up and work out of. We will set you up with an account with a small budget,” and off he goes. At this point I thought it’s just best that I stay out of this guy’s way. I mean next time I run into him he’s going to want a new church built.
Well days go by and as you would have guessed my mind has not stopped thinking about the proposal presented to me about this clothing and food pantry. So, I go down and look at the room that the Pastor told me about and well there wasn’t much there. I guess the word got out though and this is one of those miracles I heard about one day during the message in church because there were 4 bags of food sitting on the floor along with some blankets and coats. Well not really knowing again what I was doing I involved the kids and my wife to help set things up. A few weeks go by and we had us an operational clothes and food pantry. We distributed flyers with information such as dates and hours of operation, location, and what was available. What’s that old saying “Build it and they will come?” Maybe I’m putting too much stock in this whole thing, maybe not. Right away I did notice that yet again here I found myself working towards something based on an idea and spending a large amount of time with my family. Quiet as it is kept, we were really enjoying the whole playing store and all.
It came time for “The Grand Opening.” Well maybe it was more of a soft opening as we were there and I believe more folks from the church showed up as opposed to folks needing food and clothes, which wasn’t a bad thing as all these church folks brought more donations including food. I guess they had been cleaning out their closets and garages too. All in all it was a good day and we felt like we were making a difference. As time went on let’s just say this whole idea which, remember, I was very skeptical of really took off. There were lines of people usually as early as an hour before we even opened lined up outside. Now remember that Pastor guy? You know the one I vowed to stay away from with fear of another crazy idea? Well, I was beginning to think he had some special powers or something. At best he sure knew things because something really happened with this whole food pantry deal. As things worked out it appears most of the folks showing up to get clothes and food were in the thick of it, mostly abusing some type of drug and/or in situations where they were either homeless or going to be homeless in just a short matter of time. But wait. Wasn’t that me 60-90 days ago? Believe me when I say that it was painful to see the despair, the hurt, the empty eyes, and mostly those kids and how their parents could drag them along for the ride. Stop. I know what you’re thinking…
In hindsight, what I thought to be a crazy idea yet again from this Pastor was another gateway, a lens for me to see through. It was like a mirror where I saw myself and the destruction I was leaving behind, like a wake behind a boat. What a clear picture this was and I was playing the leading role. As I sit here today some 20 plus years later, clean from any level of illegal drugs, having recently finished raising 5 children, I know that crazy idea from that guy with special powers who saw something in me and my family that most people would have shied away from, played such a role in my getting to where I am today. Simple, yet so complicated for me to see back then. Sometimes it’s all about the angle.
(See Part 3 – Batter Up)