From Project to Friend: Todd’s Experience
It started through a Thanksgiving dinner outreach event at the church. A homeless man, down on his luck and wrestling with the addictions of life sitting at the same table as Todd a former owner of a successful business and volunteer at the Thanksgiving event. A little turkey and a 20-minute conversation lead to a seven-year friendship of mutual blessing.
He walked by homeless beggars on his way to work in downtown Cincinnati for many years and always felt a nudging to help but never really knew how. For years Todd had been a faithful volunteer at the church and had been involved with various outreach events but had never really fully been trained or equipped to handle what he would begin that Thanksgiving day.
Todd met Danny at Thanksgiving 2006 when he was seated at the same table for the church Thanksgiving outreach event. They talked for a few minutes and soon found that they had a few similar experiences that provided the basis for their conversation. Danny mentioned that he was in a rough stage of life and was living in the woods behind the nearby trailer park. He had no job and no way to get his life turned around. Todd felt for Danny and really wanted to help him, but remembers sitting there at the table that day with many doubts and questions. The biggest one being: What can I really do to help?
Todd invited Danny to start meeting with him regularly to talk about life. Danny shared his story and heartbreaks and Todd shared his. The two of them started a friendship that put Todd face to face with the reality of poverty, homelessness and guilty pasts, a life completely different than one he had ever personally encountered. Together they walked through years of ups and downs as Todd stumbled through serving Danny and Danny stumbled through trusting Todd. Neither of them really knew what they were doing but God continually strengthened their friendship and provided Todd with the opportunities and wisdom to love Danny and all of his life hurdles.
They walked through Danny’s despair of alcoholism, lying and poor choices; as well as the joy of reconciliation, new beginnings and God’s grace. Danny would get a job and then lose it, get a job and then lose it. But each time Todd recounts, we learned a little more about ourselves, making good choices and the God who provides…. and forgives.
A story Todd recalls is the joy on Danny’s face when he received new dentures to replace the teeth he had rotted out through years of neglect.
“He was a new man equipped with a self-esteem he hadn’t seen in years.”
Todd also remembers watching as Danny walked through the pain of discrimination and judgment, being a man often looked down upon by the clothes he wore and the life he “chose” to live.
Together they wrestled with many fears, unknowns and questions; some Danny’s and many Todd’s. “I had no idea how to do this,” Todd mentioned, “but I was continually convicted that Danny could not do this alone. Danny needed a friend, and as I soon learned a person who would listen and share in his pain.”
It’s been seven years since Todd first met Danny and he has seen God do an incredible transformation in Danny’s life. Though Danny is physically out of the woods, he still deals with some of his demons from the past. Danny is light years ahead of where he was Thanksgiving 2006, but like each of us, he is still a work in progress.
Todd also shares about how God has done a work in his life through this process. “I see Danny from a completely new perspective now. I see him through his potential and promise, his joy and capabilities, not his needs or addictions. I never realized how much God had changed my perspective until a phone conversation a few years ago. Danny ended the conversation saying, ‘Thanks Todd, I love you man.’ In that moment I realized that Danny and I had forged a great friendship that was built around the hope and trust that God was in the process of changing us both.”
It wasn’t merely a hand out that Danny needed, but rather a hand up. A friend willing to listen, care and encourage him through some dark times in life. What started as a simple outreach project by a church has grown into a great friendship; one never expected the day two men with completely different life experiences sat down at a table for a simple lunch together.