Brandon sits on the corner of 53rd and 6th. He doesn't have a home to call his own because of his history of addiction. He knows that and by God's grace he told my students this week that he's been able to stay sober. He made a promise to his mother at the bedside of his brother who had overdosed that he would get clean so she would not lose another son; and he did.
Someone walked by him before our volunteers met him and said, "suicide is always an option". And walked away.
When Siennah said that to me, my heart sank. She continued to tell the story but I was stuck there. How callous, impoverished and depleted does one's heart have to be to look down at someone and say, "suicide is always an option". The words I want to use for this person are admittedly much worse than what I've typed here. But that is not what God wanted me to focus on.
Because Brandon, when these words were said to him considered suicide for a moment and then knowing that He has a Father in heaven who loves him began to pray. He called on God because he knew over and beyond the silent and spoken curses of men and women in business suits were the words of a suffering Savior who speaks peace and love over him. And then - Siennah, Wanjiru, Gloria and Katie - answered his prayer with food, prayer and presence. Their listening was a reminder that he is not invisible but valuable. His story was treasured and his smile a delight to 4 students who hailed from Taiwan, Kenya, Bergen County and Queens by way of Vassar and RIT.
The story here is not the tragic reality of someone inviting someone else to end his own life. The story is that instead of Brandon killing himself, he turned to Jesus. And Jesus answered his prayer.
God is permanently on the side of the oppressed. He sees those who are marginalized, homeless, abandoned, broken, unemployed, imprisoned, left behind, left out, grieving, diseased, wandering, misunderstood, and invited to kill themselves. And He comes to our aid. He is near to the broken-hearted. Selah.
On this Good Friday, I am so grateful for this vivid picture that because Jesus was forsaken on the Cross, none of us, especially those on the street will never ultimately be forsaken.
Brandon told my students that he appreciated them stopping and if they saw his brother across the street and he wasn't in the best mood to "please be patient with him, he's still working on the God thing." I ask God today for patience, grace and forgiveness to fill my heart and remove the bitterness I have towards the stranger who cursed our new friend because it sounds like he's still working on the God thing too.
*This is a reflection from Feed 500 during #RecWeek16, a ministry of InterVarsity's New York City Urban Project. Special thanks to KIND Bars, One Sandwich at a Time, and Calvary Baptist Church for their generous support.