I would like to tell you that I learned the afore mentioned lesson quickly, but I am afraid it has taken me quite a long time. As a Christian, I have struggled with the worldly side of my business for years. Don't get me wrong, I love what I do. I was born with a creative spirit that desires to make the world a more beautiful place, one well planned party and beautiful home at a time! I know that these talents come from God, as he is the Great Creator. What I have struggled with from time to time is that this job that I love so much is only providing people with worldly possessions that they do not need. Couldn't their money be better spent building wells or feeding hungry children in third world countries? This idea nagged at me for years before I really started to see the ways God was working to use us in a bigger way, for His glory.
I attended my first Catalyst conference in Atlanta in 2012. This was an experience that would get my wheels turning, and help set me on a path that I am still forging. The theme that year was “Make”, and it seemed like the two day experience was tailor “made” for me!
After I realized that Donald broke my heart, I returned home with a new outlook on our relationship. As uncomfortable as it made me, I made a real effort to look Donald in the eyes and talk to him like he was a human being. I did discuss with him that we would be glad to feed him, but behavior like he exhibited in our first encounter was not acceptable. We had a good talk that day. He was not drunk at the time and found it very hard to believe that he had acted that way. He ate lunch that day and behaved like a perfect (but still very dirty) angel. Donald began coming by almost every day, and can you believe I thought about telling him that he could only come in twice a week? What a stupid thing to do, limit the amount of times per week that we could show Donald the Love of God! At this point, I will skip some of the details of our story and get right to the important parts.
Over the course of the next year, Donald began coming in clean shaven, with cut hair, and his clothes were clean. He was so excited to be greeted by all of the smiling faces at The Shoppes and to have a good lunch. This became possibly his most pleasant experience of each day. I am proud to say that my team embraced Donald as I had decided to do, all of them being kind and helpful, taking the time to ask him how his day was going. We all bragged on him as much as we could; how good he looked with his hair cut and how we had noticed such a great change in him. I specifically told Donald that I was so proud that he seemed to be drinking less and that I thought he looked really good. He told me that he had quit a lot of that bad “stuff” he was doing.
Fast forward to the present, Donald is still cleaned up. He uses his best manners when he comes to The Shoppes. He doesn’t come for lunch as much but he comes every morning before we open to get a cup of coffee. Everyone that works here knows how he takes his coffee and what he likes to eat. I think he likes coming so much because he knows when he walks in the door he will get a big “Hey Donald” from everyone that works here. He cannot remember our names so he refers to all of us as “Squirrel”. I am not going to tell you that he has quit drinking or is by any means on the path to complete rehabilitation, but he is happier and it shows all over his face. I have recently gotten the chance to meet the barber that has been shaving him and cutting his hair. I was able to tell him thank you and how much it means to all of us. There is a lady cleaning his house, doing his laundry and buying his groceries. I have never met her and Donald doesn’t know her last name. Tara and I suspect she is an angel.
After going through this amazing experience with Donald, I realized that God had been building a work in my business and I had not opened my eyes to realize it. My heart had already been broken through the years for my customers. My widows and widowers, my divorcees, my parents who had lost children… daily we were faced with people who needed to experience the love of Jesus. I realized that we were not just selling these folks a sandwich, or a lamp, or a new piece of jewelry. We were given the opportunity to LOVE them. It finally dawned on me that my place of business was a place of hope and refuge to so many. I knew that I must be more intentional in reaching out to those who were hurting, and celebrating with those experiencing victories while encouraging and befriending the lonely.
I have so much to say on this topic that I’ve split it into two blog posts. I hope you will check back and read Part Two of this story because I can’t wait to tell you how you can help with our mission and get involved!