Recently we had some of our best friends, Raf and Marje, over for dinner. While we were chatting, Marje told a story about how they were in the city and saw a homeless man out and about that was struggling to keep his pants on because of his lack of belt. She nudged Raf to give him his belt, but he didn’t comply with her wishes. She tried again, and again he shrugged it off. After they were away from the man, she asked him, “What would Brett do?” and Raf agreed that I would definitely give him my belt. As I heard the story, I nodded my head and smiled. WWBD? Ha! I was humbled that my friends would think so highly of me, but thinking back to a time recently when I did the exact same thing as Raf, it made me feel pretty crummy.
I like things. I’m the type of person that can go the the mall and just look at things for hours on end. I drive my wife crazy when we go to target and I get lost in the speaker and tv area for 20 minutes demoing all of the sound systems. I’m the type of person that favors quality over quantity as well. I don’t purchase too much stuff, instead, I wait until I can afford something that is really nice and will last awhile, something I can take pride in, then I buy it. The downside to this is that if anything ever happens to those items, if I misplace them, or they get damaged, I get REALLY frustrated. I hold on really tightly.
A couple months ago, while on an outreach in Newark, I saw a man in a similar situation as Marje described. He was homeless and really struggling to traverse his daily routine because of his lack of belt. Sure, I greeted him, gave him something to eat, asked him if he would like any information about housing, jobs, or X,Y,Z… But, when he asked if we had any belts, I said no and wished him luck, I even offered him a list of places that provide clothing.
I wasn’t lying. We didn’t have any belts to bring with us.
Sure, I thought about giving mine, but I really liked mine. That night I was wearing my leather belt from Levi. It fit really well and felt good. I didn’t want to give it away.
It’s not like I hadn’t been exposed to others giving away their things freely. A friend of mine who has recently left us at NYCR to go do a similar ministry in Dallas, named Paul, has literally given away everything but his pants at one point during outreaches. Yaz, our Director of NJ Outreaches, has taken off his shoes on more than one occasion to provide from someone with less. Rebecca, one of our interns, recently gave her favorit bag, one her mom had given her, to a woman we met it the Bronx because she was carrying around all of her belongings in a black trash bag. The extraordinary group of people I get to serve alongside each day are so amazing at giving freely, yet I hold on so tightly to my possessions.
I’m thankful for second chances, for do-overs. After taking the time to think and pray about these decisions, I asked God to give me another chance and a few weeks ago I was given that chance. I was back at Newark’s Penn Station when a man walked up, high on K2, barely standing, and holding up his pants. As we got him a chair and made sure he was ok, I asked him where his belt was. He said he didn’t have one. Without a second thought, I pulled mine off and helped him put it on. Now he has a really great belt and I use my plethora of Army issued ones that work plenty well.
I try to love well. I get it right a lot of the time, but other times, I fail miserably. But, I keep learning and trying and asking God to give me second, third, and 54th chances. Eventually I will get it right.
I will also make sure I continue to surround myself with friends like Raf and Marje, who believe the best of me - even when it’s not true just yet - they know who I will be.
Thanks for following along friends. How does this encourage you to be better and to give freely? It can be of your things, your time, or your money? What are you holding onto more tightly than you should?
Much love all,
P.S. After I shared this with Raf, he said he would definitely do the same if given a second chance. :)