I met two guys yesterday. I met one in the morning and the other in the evening. One was in his mid-50s, the other in his late 60s. One was black and the other was white. Both had an interesting story to tell.
The white guy, I’ll call him Mike (not his real name) was in his late 60s. Mike had a great career in the corporate world. By his own admission he had managed over a thousand people and made lots of money. He and his wife and only child lived in a nice home in an exclusive neighborhood. Their son attended an expensive prep school. Mike was living the American dream.
Not long after Mike’s son graduated from college (about 10 years ago), Mike’s wife suffered a stroke and became an invalid. He was determined to take care of her himself in their home. He did so for seven years, but it cost him his job and burnt through all his savings, retirement and investments. His wife died 3 years ago. Two years later his home was foreclosed and he was living in his car. During all this, he suffered 2 heart attacks and 2 knee surgeries and 2 hernia operations. His son took him in for a few months, but their relationship was unhealthy and eventually his son kicked him out. Mike found an apartment, but quickly got behind in his rent. He is now 4 months behind and facing eviction. Through some friends and connections of mine, I put him in touch with someone who is going to help him navigate the maze of governmental assistance.
In a matter of a few years, Mike has gone from prosperity to poverty, from the upper-class to the lower-class. While there is hope for Mike, he will probably be on governmental assistance the rest of his life.
The second guy a met, black guy, I’ll call him Roger (not his real name) was in his mid-50s. I met Roger on the street. He had been drinking, but was not quite drunk. He was eager for a conversation and extremely bright. Roger grew up in a working-class neighborhood. He still lives with his mom and dad in the house he grew up in. After high-school, Roger traveled the States, doing whatever he wanted to. He spent time in New York, Florida, Colorado, Kansas, and California. He got involved in drugs (buying and selling) women, and alcohol. The one vice he still holds on to is alcohol. At one point, he had 9 years sobriety, but not any longer. Roger knows he made a lot of bad decisions in his life. He will quickly tell you he has no one to blame but himself.
In his late 20s, Roger gave his life to Christ, was baptized, and started reading the Bible. He said he has read the Bible from cover to cover several times. I can testify he had a lot of the Bible memorized. He was quite knowledgeable of the Scriptures. With tears in his eyes he told me how hard he tries to do right but that it is extremely difficult and his war with the flesh wins more often than not. I shared with Roger how much God loves him and how Jesus has not given up on him. I talked to him about grace and forgiveness and how the One that is in him is greater than the one who is in the world. We talked for about 90 minutes, standing on a sidewalk next to a busy roadway. He seemed to understand what I was saying. I have no doubt Roger loves Jesus.
Roger has been in the lower-class most of his life. More than likely he will hover at the poverty line the rest of his life.
I’m not sure if there is any real lesson to learn from these two stories. It’s just another typical day in my very blessed life. I am amazed at the different people God allows to cross my path. Both Mike’s and Roger’s stories are sad and typical and common in their own way. Maybe the lesson is that people all around you are hurting and in need of grace and love and forgiveness and conversation.