Give People a Chance – A Lesson Learned From My Purpose Driven Father
My dad stood smiling and waved at me when I strolled down the small hill leading to the side of my house. Mom was busy painting some wood that we would later add to the pergola that Mom and Dad were helping me build on the side patio of my home. It was my dad’s idea. He thought a pergola would add some dimension to my house.
We were on our second day of the project and struggled mightily to get things on track the day before. I expected to see my mom and dad, but I did not expect to see Isaac, a soft spoken homeless man that Dad brought along to help out.
“Hey Erick, this is my friend Isaac, he is here to help. I hope you don’t mind?” Dad patted Isaac on the shoulder like they had been buddies for years. Isaac smiled and offered his hand to me. I accepted his handshake and smiled back at him.
“Nice to meet you Isaac.”
“Good, let’s get on with it, then.” Dad turned towards the pergola to begin the next phase of the project. Isaac was a hard worker and a blessing to us as he provided the extra help we needed to really move the project forward.
I learned that Isaac was from Chicago and had fell on hard times. He was staying at the Shalom center in Bloomington for the summer as he worked to get back on his feet. Apparently, my dad contacted the police department to find out where the homeless shelter was located and drove over to the shelter and found Isaac. He asked Isaac if he could help us, in exchange, he would pay him a fair wage for his services.
Isaac agreed, so my dad took him out to lunch, got to know him a bit, and then brought him over to the house to help out. Dad treated Isaac with respect. He treated Isaac as his friend and laughed and joked with him throughout the day. Towards the end of the day, Dad looked at the work we accomplished and wanted to get a picture to capture the moment.
“Isaac, why don’t you jump in the picture with us!” He motioned for Isaac to come and sit with him. Isaac was surprised by the request and reluctantly joined the family. My wife, Alia, took the shot of us sitting proudly in front of our finished pergola that we labored over the past few days. My dad paid Isaac, thanked him for his time, and took him back to the shelter.
A few days later, Dad showed me the pictures we took in front of the pergola. He had three copies made, one set for me, one set for him, and one set for his new friend, Isaac. He went back to the shelter so he could track Isaac down and give him a copy of the pictures.
The experience with Isaac was not an isolated event. I was comfortable around Isaac, because my whole life, Dad has done this. Whether it was a home project, a work project, or anything that required assistance, my dad always looked to provide opportunities to folks that were less fortunate or just needed a second chance in life.
I’ve worked on several projects with my dad and side by side with people that had a long list of criminal records, disabilities, or other attributes that made them outcasts in society. However, Dad never viewed them as outcasts. He saw human beings, just folks that needed a chance to get back on their feet. What I saw in a guy that was a broken down alcoholic, Dad saw a man that needed a chance in life and deserved dignity just like the rest of us.
He didn’t look at people for what they had done wrong in their life or for what may be wrong with them, but for what they could be if they were just given a chance. He gave them that chance and did it with grace and generosity.
What the world would saw as misfits, my dad saw as children of God and treated them as such. He treated them fairly, but he also held them accountable and never gave them a break if they screwed up. He was not looking to coddle them or give them a handout, he merely wanted to give them a chance to improve their situation.
I think my dad relates to the misfits of the world, because he understands what I am beginning to understand now. We are all misfits really and without the grace of God and the grace of our fellow man, we would never have a chance at a fruitful life. Dad never looked down on anyone, because there isn’t much that separates us. It’s easy to judge others and the parts of our society that appear unseemly, but what if we all did what Dad has done his entire life. Reach out to those in need and help them get back on their feet.
Give people a chance, because someday you will need a second shot at life yourself, and when you do, I hope you are lucky enough to encounter someone like my dad.