Anticipation set in. Packed with full hearts and a reservation at 6pm for Kings Kitchen and Bakery, we headed to downtown Charlotte for the launch of a month dedicated to intentionally loving the poor. To interruptible hearts. With no more of an agenda than to take some new friends out to dinner.
He sat on a park bench, Big Gulp in hand, smiling as we approached him. Immediately, joy filled the conversation as we all became instant friends, laughing over stories of when he was a hair-dresser.
“What’s your story?” Bruce asked us.
We looked at him and said, “Well, we were about to go grab some dinner. Would you want to join us? We can tell you more about our story, and you about yours. What do you think?”
He looked at us, almost shocked. “Really?” He said.
“Our reservation is at 6pm.” We said smiling, seeing the offer reeling inside of his head.
He just looked at us. I think in that moment he was trying to figure us out, wondering what our deal was. And then he snapped to. “Let’s go!” He said jumping up.
We sat around the large table in the back of the restaurant, laughing and swapping stories over fried chicken, mac-n-cheese, and corn bread. As we went around, each sharing a little bit about ourselves, it was evident that this love we were experiencing was so much greater than we even expected it to be. It was simple, that was the thing. Friends sitting around a meal, sharing our struggles and sharing our stories. It reminded us of Matthew 22 at the wedding banquet, the unlikely ones laughing and crying and bonding together with Jesus. This love, we decided, is worth it. It’s worth our inconvenience, it’s worth our pain, it’s worth our time, and it’s worth our life, period.
As I looked around the room, at all my friends, I knew that this was what it was about.
“I used to make choices and pray for forgiveness but I don’t want to be like that anymore. I want to give my everything. A real, full commitment.”
Michael, a shy, sweet man said as he shared. His wife had left him. He believed for a long time that it was because he had idolized her. He lost his job. He was sleeping on park benches. His circumstances weren’t great, We all left that night with a new hope in our heart. Thinking before he spoke, he told us,
“Having everything stripped was not the outcome, but neither was having the job. There’s more to life than that.”
That’s why we do it. We do it for the hope. We do it for the love. We do it because there is more to life than what is right in front of us. No matter our circumstances, we will never lose the hope of Jesus Christ.
Goodnight from Charlotte.