Earlier in my life, I thought there was one particular thing I was supposed to do with my life. I thought that God had a purpose for me and my main job was to discover what it was.
– Barbara Brown Taylor
Hank (not his real name) confused me.
Week after week he wandered inside Manna House mumbling, sometimes singing. He’d carry boxes. He’d unload fruit. He’d return a cart to the back (and you best get out of his way).
Everybody knew him. And I too finally understood: locked inside this 70ish year old body was the intellect of a young child.
But then Hank disappeared.
On a night away from Manna House, Hank was crossing the street as usual from his low-rent apartment complex to a nearby convenience store.
This time he didn’t make it across.
He was hit by a van and fell to the ground.
A few neighbors in his complex were looking out their windows that night. And witnessed not only the hit, but something else. Something very eerie.
The neighbors knew Hank because he loved them. When he volunteered at Manna House, it wasn’t just to serve the people who lined up there. It was also to help his neighbors back home. When he’d load up his own box of food to take home, he always packed extra to distribute to others. (I learned early on not to touch anything in Hank’s box. It was his to give away.)
But on the night of the accident, Hank was the one needing love.
The intoxicated driver and passenger in the van got out. They saw Hank motionless on the pavement. And made another bad decision that night. Instead of calling for help, they decided to do away with the evidence.
They lifted Hank’s body to load him in their van.
They couldn’t have imagined that eyes glaring through windows wouldn’t allow that for their Hank. Fingers quickly dialed 911 and the police arrived before the van got away.
Things looked bad for Hank. Because of the jostling, his injuries were now even worse. He was in ICU day after day after day. No one knew if this grown man with a child’s mind would ever recover.
But friends came. Friends prayed. Friends loved. Little by little, Hank got better. And lot by lot, God did a miracle.
Last Wednesday night before we began the food distribution at Manna House, Fran prayed about Hank. As she was thanking God for his recovery, I heard shuffling feet around the corner.
There was Hank.
Oblivious to any attention on his account. He wore a neck brace, and he wasn’t mumbling to himself or singing like I had been used to him doing, but he still was Hank.
He still had purpose. He was gathering cans of food into a clean garbage bag. His driver asked if he needed that much, and he said he had to take it to his neighbors. She said okay. Because she knew he would.
This was how he loved his neighbors. And they loved him for it.
Hank isn’t finished here yet. An old man with a small mind but a big heart is still in use. Nobody can take that away before its time.
For the month of September, I’ll be exercising the Practice of Living with Purpose. I’m learning by watching people like Hank.
And learning that loving is our purpose, regardless of who we are, where we are, or what we have.
Because we’re not done here yet either.
* * *
What menial task can you do today with the purpose of love?
- August 2013: The practice of encounter
- July 2013: The practice of the wilderness
- June 2013: The practice of walking on earth
- May 2013: The practice of physical labor
- April 2013: The practice of saying no
- March 2013: The practice of wearing skin
- February 2013: The practice of slowing down
- January 2013: The practice of waking up to God
- Summaries – August 2013
- A new Bible memory challenge