We learn about life as a child from living in a family. Functional families both provide for our needs as well as protect us from harm. Families are suppose to be the safe place for children to be nurtured and developed.
Meet Phillip, the street kid. One morning when Phillip was just eight years old, he woke up in a panic to find that his family was simply gone. He was left to fend for himself in the dangerous streets of Los Angeles.
Phillip never had a safe place to lay his head. He never had a safe community to express himself. He never had a loving person to direct his path, train him about even the simple things of life.
Phillip once told me that the most influential person in his life growing up was a security guard at the downtown office building. For a season of his life, Phillip slept in the entryway of the building for protection from the elements and the light it provided. The security guard allowed him to sleep there and would wake him up in the morning to let him know that it was time to move on.
Phillip grew up lonely, afraid, insecure, and angry. He eventually resorted to sleeping with a gun. He eventually found himself getting in trouble and making poor decisions that would lead to destructive outcomes. Drugs and alcohol became the street kid’s friends helping him numb his pain and calm his angry disposition.
It wasn’t long before Phillip landed in prison. This became a recurring experience for a few days at a time. When he finally was incarcerated for a lengthy stay he realized he needed to change his life. Prison life will either make your heart harder or broken. Phillip was offered a way out. He could trade prison for a year drug and alcohol program. God led him to the Union Rescue Mission.
Three years later Phillip is a new man. He always has a smile and a positive word. He has been saved from a life of survival on the street and in prison. He is now one of the few actual residents of the URM. It’s his home. It’s the safest place for Phillip and he loves it here.
Phillip now has a purpose. He loves and serves the God who literally saved his life. He’s the self-appointed janitor of the resident wing on the fifth floor. He is quick to share his story with those who come through on tours. He volunteers to help me with water walks to refresh the people on the street. He is my promotions captain for the new mission-wide weekly chapel services. The other day I asked Phillip to borrow a vacuum cleaner. In a flash he was back vacuuming my room and office.
I invited Phillip to go to the movie theatre this week. He enjoys the theatre but he goes by himself. This week we went together and he was so excited to tell me that he wanted to buy me dinner afterward. We went to a nice restaurant and when the check came Phillip told me this was the first time he ever took someone out to a nice meal and picked up the whole bill. Phillip lives off of $40 a week. I allowed him to treat me because was proud of himself. I am proud of him too.
There is something transforming for all of us when we become friends with marginalized people. God not only uses us to help transform them, he uses them to transform us… in ways we could never experience with people who are similar to us. Phillip has taught me about a lot about positive perspective, gratitude, forgiveness, worship, and humility.
If you’d like to establish a friendship with a person like Phillip… I know a whole lot of people here at skid row that would cherish becoming your friend. Come on down and I’ll introduce you to someone who could use your encouragement and who will, in turn, enrich your life.
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