A cool breeze danced across the dark, rippling waters of Puget Sound as I walked along the waterfront, stopping for a moment at Pier 59 to soak in the sights and sounds of the beautiful city of Seattle. Tourists bustled through Waterfront Park, stopping to browse the array of knick-knacks and trinkets that populated the tables of merchant tents. Enormous freight ships cruised slowly from the Port of Seattle against a majestic backdrop of the mist-covered Olympic Mountains. As I began walking to meet a few friends for a seafood lunch on pier 57, I crossed the path of several homeless men and young train riders. I flashed a quick smile at them as I walked by, observing their crudely made cardboard signs and chiseled crafts.
I had flown to Seattle for a greater portion of the week to be a groomsman for a friend’s wedding in the nearby suburb of Kent, Washington. This week away from Colorado also served as a welcome break from the busyness of life and work in Denver.
Over the course of the previous month, I had started to become frustrated with my position and responsibilities at Sox Place. Though I could say that I generally enjoyed my job, the last few weeks had begun to push me to the limits of my patience. I currently work as the director of the screen-printing shop at Sox Place, Sox Place Screen Printing, working to employ and teach job skills to the street youth of Denver. While my position certainly provides a sense of fulfillment and purpose, it also requires a significant amount of patience, understanding, and flexibility, much of which I do not always consciously (or willingly) practice. My current employee, Joe Joe, had been testing my patience, and training had been going pretty slowly, costing a fair amount of time and money to the company. And though I went to school for business management, I often feel severely inadequate and inexperienced when it comes to running a small business, especially when it involves a skill that I have never learned before.
Over the course of my trip in Seattle, I began to wonder what it would be like if I didn’t work at Sox Place. I tend to run away from circumstances that I find difficult, even for something as trivial as what I had been dealing with. My imagination wandered as I began to fabricate a life for myself in the port city that I was exploring, somehow justifying a move away from my home in Denver and my current job.
It seems silly, even foolish, that I had even thought about leaving even for a moment, but as God has been revealing to me, these tendencies are only a result of my humanness and the countless imperfections that come along with such a state of being. God has been pushing me towards seeking wisdom, and not simply understanding. He has been pushing me to grow from my mistakes, rather than allowing me to strive for constant perfection. He has especially been rather fond of using my unique position at Sox Place to humble me, even to the point of breaking.
Prior to my trip to the northwest, I had made an agreement to sell a scooter to Louis, one of the street youth who utilizes the services at Sox Place from time to time. He had become homeless through some unfortunate circumstances, but he had been working diligently to find a way off the streets for the past several months.
“All I need is a form of transportation to get to work,” Louis had explained to me earlier. “Even if it’s a cheap moped, that’s all I need to get this job back.”
Louis had actually been hired at a high-paying job, but his supervisor quickly fired him due to safety issues once he discovered that Louis had been riding his 20” BMX bike two and a half hours to a job in which he was required to operate heavy machinery. This caused Louis to quickly lose hope once again, spiraling into a continuum of constant negativity and hopelessness.
Prior to that, a family friend had given me a scooter to sell in order to help support me financially, but it required some work in order to get it up and running. The scooter sat in my apartment parking space for weeks since I hadn’t really had time to figure out how to have it repaired without spending too much money. As Louis and I were in the middle of this conversation, I quickly realized that I had found the perfect potential owner for my scratched up, broken down scooter.
After some negotiation, Louis became the proud owner of a well-used Strada Eurojet. Using his extensive mechanical background and little bit of elbow grease, he had the scooter up and running within a matter of days.
I remember his expression when he learned that I would be giving him a scooter. “The light at the end of the tunnel is so bright, I have to close my eyes to see,” Louis would say. And it was bright indeed. He had found a sliver of hope to hold onto, and that was all he needed to pull himself out of homelessness.
Every day I struggle to quench my pride. I have an extremely strong desire to know exactly how to do things, and how to do them well. In running the screen printing business, I have been forced to learn as I go and make an obscene amount of mistakes as a result. I was forced to start from scratch. I knew absolutely nothing about the industry upon being hired at Sox Place, and I was never given any formal training on how to screen print, use Photoshop, or any of the other necessary skills that are needed to operate such a business. And what’s more, I have never been trained to employ street youth and felons who have never successfully held a job before. On most days, this ocean of uncertainty can be a tall glass to swallow. Every single day I am reminded that I am not the one doing the work, but that He is working through me. I only have to be humble enough to allow Him to do the job.
I’ve come to learn that in working with the hopeless, the unlovable and the ignored; it only takes one small act to completely change the course of someone’s life. It also takes months (and more often than not, years or decades) of consistent, loving kindness, in order to even notice a discernible difference in the trajectory of a person’s existence. But despite the immense amount of things that I don’t know, especially in how to do well at my job, I do know how to love. I know how to love because He loved me first. He loves me more than any combination of artfully crafted words could ever convey, and it is because of Him that I can ever even attempt to stumble my way into loving another human being.
Louis now works full-time at a sign company and loves every minute of it. He rides his scooter to work every day.
He leads the humble in what is right,
And teaches the humble his way.
* * *
The Lord by wisdom founded the earth;
By understanding he established the heavens;
By his knowledge the deeps broke open,
And the clouds drop down the dew.
My son, do not lose sight of these –
Keep sound wisdom and discretion,
And they will be life for your soul
And adornment for your neck.
* * *
Blessed is the one who finds wisdom,
And the one who gets understanding,
For the gain from her is better than
gain from silver
And her profit better than gold.
She is more precious that jewels,
And nothing you desire can compare