The God of The Details

While the Bible is full of dozens of Hebrew names for God, my favorite title is one that is not found in the Bible at all. One time in a prayer my friend asked God to be “The God of the Details.” From that day forward I have looked for the way God does what only God can. This week it came through an introduction to a 47 year old man named Adrian.

 

I knew from Facebook my neighbors have had a house guest since New Years Eve. Other than his name I really did not know the details but they have big hearts and tons of friends so I didn’t give it another thought.

 

On New Year’s Day my neighbor told me Adrian had an appointment near where I work and wondered if I would give him a ride. I agreed and so at 6:45 an articulate, personable stranger got into my car and over the next 45 minutes I got a brand new perspective on fresh beginnings.

 

I have a confession. I am never sure what questions are socially acceptable--so much of my job as a social worker revolves around asking total strangers about the intimate details of their lives. I surmised Adrian was homeless but so as not to be offensive, I decided to just let him talk. I only asked questions that came directly out of his comments. “I am starting a new job next week” was met with “Oh great. Where?” and so on.

Eventually curiosity got the better of me and I finally asked where he has been living.

 

Adrian’s Story in a Nutshell

I want to begin by saying not only has Adrian given me permission to share his story, but he is honored that you will care to read it.

Adrian, had two minor scrapes with the law when he was younger. He did brief stays in jail but eventually went on to own his own home improvement business. In an effort to get ahead he made the unfortunate decision to buy some tools which he knew were stolen because the price was too good. One thing led to another and he was jailed for a few years. He came out of jail and began to put one foot in front of the other to get his life back on track. Unfortunately, due to a combination of a few poor choices and circumstances beyond his control (Including a massive layoff followed by months of unemployment) he ended up “couch surfing” at friends’ homes.

Eventually, not wanting to be a burden, he began to live at Penn Station (A large train station about 20 minutes outside of New York City). This has been his home for a year and a half.

As I write this Adrian is starting a job in four days as a butcher’s apprentice. After ninety days of  successful employment he can join the union, finally have benefits and be able to live on his own again.

Forgiving Yourself and Others

After 18 months of being homeless Adrian attributes his positive turn around to forgiveness. He states that in the beginning, he was bitter. He was focused on all the people who had wronged him; all the circumstances that were unfair. He realized he needed to take ownership for his mistakes but then forgive himself and those who had done him wrong.

 

My Brother’s Keeper

In Genesis, the first question a human asked God was “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Newark NJ is a place with no shortage of need. It can be so overwhelming that it’s hard to know where to start and therefore, so often, people do nothing. Fortunately, Jenn DePaul didn’t let that stop her. She founded Project Kind 123. The organization provides a myriad of ways to serve homeless people. While support for Project Kind is spreading, her house is still home base. Jenn is responsible for putting Adrian in touch with my neighbors thus giving him a roof for the past week.

Adrian admits his story is not the norm. His personality has definitely been a factor in his success but God also placed him in the path of many who helped move his story along. He developed many relationships with people from business owners to commuters to police officers who sought him out, fed him, conversed with him and provided items he needed.

 

Even the Deputy Mayor was key in getting him his upcoming job after an encounter in Penn Station when he came across Adrian reading a novel.

 

Dozens of strangers each playing a small role in wrapping care around Adrian has had an impact that can only be described as exponential. I believe this is the way it is meant to be if we would each step out and do what we can with what we have been given.

 

God at Work

One of the things that I appreciate about Adrian is his candor. Over the last three days, he has teased that his time out in the cold will make him the perfect butcher. He has informed me of so many details of being homeless (That he would rather be on the street than go to a warming shelter, that a fraudulent court case against a convenience store chain is the reason for many of the rules impeding feeding the homeless, that there are so many ways that systems which could help the homeless have obstacles that get in the way). I truly feel like I have learned more from this one connection than my graduate program in social work.

These past few days have stirred up many memories for me. Books about homelessness I’ve loved and people I’ve met. Passions to serve others that were buried under layers of distraction and responsibility have floated to the forefront of my mind. Adrian and I have shared gratitude for each other as I loaned him my husbands boots and he shoveled my driveway.

 

He will move onto the next phase of his life and we may or may not stay in contact. For Adrian I may end up just being another person who offered a few rides, a few dollars and a pair of size 12 boots. While his new beginning happens in just days I am on a longer journey as I approach retirement in the next few years. I believe whatever I end up doing in the next phase of my life I will look back at the lessons Adrian taught me and know God used him in my life in ways that only the God of the Details could do.

Joanne Engel