Tuesday I met a new street friend who told his story freely. He has been doing real estate deals for years in several states. He did something unethical and lost his job. Now he is in New Orleans without a home. I told him I really appreciated the part of his story where he humbly admitted he landed there as a consequence of his own choices. Not many people seem to want to take responsibility for their part of their own dilemma. And I know I prefer to find someone else to blame for problems.
Daryl had an air about him, like someone who knows this is a temporary situation. He even told me his plan for steps to get “back on his feet.” I told him the story about another street friend calling our attention to how everyone living on the street is in “transition,” not there in “homelessness” as a permanent state of being. There’s a certain dignity inherent in knowing our current state is just for now. It offers hope for what’s to come.
After we visited a while, and he received his shelter voucher for the Salvation Army, he stopped me. “You’re a pastor?” he asked. I explained that I was a pastor of another church and that the volunteers for the Good Samaritan/Open Table ministry come from several churches. He said he had an illustration for me, and it turned out to be a good story.
“We are all Styrofoam cups. God fills us up everyday, but God doesn’t intend for us to keep everything we receive. We need two holes about midway up the side of our cup. That way some of what God gives us pours out to others. The holes aren’t in the bottom, which would empty us. And the only hole isn’t at the top, which would leave us full but selfish. So the two holes are in the middle, and God flows in and out.”
I relished Daryl’s cup illustration. It was a simple and clear story about grace, gratitude, and generosity. As Daryl had discussed his situation he had even revealed how he practiced that life of receiving and giving freely before he made wrong choices in the real estate world.
Years ago I read Christina Baldwin’s similar message in her book, The Seven Whispers: A Spiritual Practice for Times Like These. One of those “whispers,” or spiritual practices, says, “Ask for what you need, give what you can.” There is something so right about this way of life. Hoarding is the way of some. Co-dependent self-sacrifice is the way of others. I have lived in both those ways. But today I would like to live like Daryl’s cup.
Daryl’s cup has holes in it. They are in the middle. So when we receive what we need the rest can flow out to others. May our lives be so this day.
For more stories like this see Monks in the World: Seeking God in a Frantic Culture and share it with a friend.