Jacob’s Gift

Jacob’s Gift May 15, 2014
by Peter Gathje
R3 Contributor

He told me later he didn’t want me to think he was drawing attention to himself; he just wanted to help some one in need.  When I came to Manna House this morning around 6:30a.m., Jacob was standing near the gate along with six other guests.  They were patiently waiting for me to come and unlock the gate.  Then they would be able to sit on the benches in the front yard and wait some more until the “list” for men’s showers and for “socks and hygiene” would be taken at 7:45a.m. As I unlocked the gate, I noticed that Jacob was in his stocking feet.  He had gotten shoes from Manna House just last week.

“Where are your shoes Jacob?”
“I gave them to Shirley.”
“Why did you do that?”
“She needed them more than me.”

Shirley doesn’t come to Manna House everyday.  Sometimes she is in the neighborhood but doesn’t come up the street to Manna House.  On some of those days, you can hear her shouting as she walks up and down the sidewalks.  Occasionally we can cajole her into taking a shower.  And almost every time she comes in for a shower she needs shoes.  Her mental illness is so difficult that she has a hard time keeping shoes.  I’d guess there are times when she loses them.  Other times, I’d guess her shoes get stolen, either while she sleeps, or when she gets “jumped.”

Once we opened today we got Jacob another pair of shoes.  He was happy with them.  Later than morning Shirley did come to Manna House briefly for some coffee.  She was pretty calm and Jacob’s shoes looked quite good on her.  Jacob’s gift set the tone for the day, and somehow the old Spiritual got a little closer to reality:

“I’ve got shoes, you’ve got a shoes
All of God’s children got shoes
When I get to Heaven goin’ to put on my shoes
Goin’ to walk all over God’s Heaven.”

As a guest in the clothing room was picking out clothes prior to going in for a shower, a new volunteer helpfully asked, “What are you looking for in a shirt?”  A finer question indicating respect for the guest’s choice could not have been asked.

Among the new guests at Manna House today was a man named “Lazarus.”  I was very pleased when I got to call his name in the backyard for him to come into the house a
nd take his shower.  “Lazarus, come forth!”

He got up, walked into the house, and changed out of his “burial” clothes, in which there surely was a stench, into some fresh clean clothes.  If he wasn’t quite raised from the death of homelessness, he was at least ready to walk again among the living.

“I’ve got a robe, you’ve got a robe
All of God’s children got a robe
When I get to Heaven goin’ to put on my robe
Goin’ to shout all over God’s Heaven.”

Follow Peter on Twitter @petegath

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