loser lovers – Herman's bridge update #10
This update is written by Ben…all the way from Houston, Texas!
A while ago, when Terry and I first launched the Herman’s Bridge project, we informed one lady of our project and she questioned, “Well, I hope Herman’s not a loser, is he?” I was caught a little off-guard by the way she came back with such a loaded question. I wanted to be like, “so, what if he is?” She exposed our real intentions – to love those that everyone else thinks are losers.
We are loser lovers because of our belief that God has a special concern for the most vulnerable of society. We are loser lovers because, like John Lennon’s admission in the Beatles song “I’m a Loser,” we, admit that we are losers ourselves. We, though unworthy of grace and redemption, have been reconciled…redeemed…we are being restored.
Over the past year, we’ve literally met countless “losers” on the streets of Wilmington, DE. The last couple of weeks, we’ve met two new losers: Darien and Gandy. Gandy is 46, works 14 hour roofing shifts on the weekends, and has a difficult time finding steady work during the week. Darien recently got out of prison, only to find that his kids’ mother had skipped town. He has a tattoo of his youngest child’s 2006 birth date on his arm. Darien realizes his situation as temporary and looks forward to being reunited with his children.
What makes Darien’s story come full circle is that he was present during our interview with the News Journal. The article mentions that “Cooper looked up to see several of the homeless guys wrestling on a concrete walkway. He was concerned. But the tussle broke up with laughter, rather than taunts and spite.” That was Darien and his friend acting out in strange ways. After hearing Darien’s story, his acting out wasn’t so strange; it was pretty normal.
I think that part of what makes our mission so unique is that we try to treat everyone as “normal.” Yes, everyone is unique, and certainly many of their problems are complex and require special consideration; but, even more powerful is the idea that Herman, Darien, and Gandy are our neighbors, and when our neighbors spend the night on the streets and are treated with disrespect, it upsets us. We want to break the social barriers in our own lives that treat them as outcasts.
One gentlemen handed Lorenzo a few coins last week, but it was the kind of gift that said “here’s some money, hopefully that’ll make you go away.” When we handed Lorenzo a sandwich and made eye contact, his smile told us he was being restored.
What better way to treat someone neighborly than to throw them a birthday party?
“Then Jesus said to his host, ‘When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.’”
This is, in fact, what happened just a few weeks ago. We threw Herman a birthday party.
Herman invited his friends and family. He has LOTS of family. He bragged that “not even everyone showed up.” We met his nieces, nephews, sisters, and even his father. He has one of those families that’s always laughing and arguing at the same time.
Ken brought his family. Rick brought his wife. Joanna and Ryan brought their kids. Josh and Christy came. We broke all kinds of unwritten rules. Blacks dined with whites, old with young, rich with poor, city dwellers with suburbanites…all united at Christina Park.
Perhaps the best expression of unity was the opening prayer. We all circled and held hands. We must have taken up half of a football field. We thanked God for the children that were playing together and that all were present in honor of a single cause – Herman’s birthday.
Libby had a cake made that said, “Happy Birthday to the Herminator.”
We ate. We played chess. We mingled with Herman’s family. We swung Eli and Eden in circles by their arms (according to Eli, they went 8 mph). We were blessed.
Sometimes homeless people are enigmas. Herman’s issues may be obvious, but the answers to the questions of “why?” and “how to help?” are not. With each conversation, we find out a little bit more about Herman and we get closer to helping him in a more significant manner. It was good to talk with his family.
There is much more to tell. Thanks for showing continued interest in this story. Thanks for being patient as we wrestle with the best way to help Herman. Thanks for trusting us in an untrusting world.