Recently the story was told about a Salvation Army officer traveling on errand with an employee by the name of Mike.
Mike was a trophy of grace.
He was a man of the streets, who through so many winding, pit-saturated and rocky roads of experience found himself bruised, broken and bereft of life. He was homeless, without a job, without a future, without hope and terribly alone.
Another homeless face in the crowd.
One day through a remarkable turn of events, Mike came to a realization of his plight, and the Love of God sought and found Mike. Through his conversion he regained his humanity, obtained restoration of his soul, and by the powerful grace of God recaptured his identity. His identity as a child of God.
On one particular day, the officer and Mike were traveling back to the emergency and transitional living shelter. As they were making the turn into the parking lot, Mike suddenly cried out, “Major, be careful... there’s Larry... don’t run over him.” With that, The Salvation Army officer jammed on the brakes and just as quickly, Mike got out of the vehicle and went over to the individual who was lying near the curb. He could be heard saying to the man, “Larry, you can't lay down on the street like that. You’re going to get hurt. Come on now, let me help you up and get you to a place where you will be safe.”
With that, Mike helped the man towards the door of the shelter and got him settled in for the night while the officer waited in the van for Mike’s return.
After Mike settled back in the vehicle, the astonished Salvation Army officer said to Mike, “How do you know that man and how did you know his name?” To which Mike responded, “When I was on the street we looked out for each other. He took care of me and I took care of him and Major,” Mike said emphatically, “that’s Larry… don't you know that everyone has a name?”
Larry, is a representative of an invisible community. Larry and a multitude of others, each named individually, can be found in almost every town and city and they exist in plain sight.
Additionally, even service-oriented members of any typical community, who have pledged to meet the necessities of those individuals who are in great need, don’t really communicate or dialogue with those served to find out what truly are their actual needs or goals.
Case in point was a recent study conducted in which members of the homeless community were asked what their paramount needs were in order to survive and move forward with their life. Often, it was thought by those asking the questions and those who had pledged to serve anticipated the answers to be shelter, food, clothing, etc. To simply meet the first level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Imagine, to the chagrin and amazement of those nonprofits dedicated to serve the underserved community, when the published results were posted reflected a response of the homeless population asking for dental care, optical care and basic medical care. This basic medical care was found to be diabetes treatment, blood pressure control, managing weight, etc.
Upon further conversation, the motivation of the homeless and indigent population, in requesting these basic services associated with one’s need for medical, dental and optical service, were to better themselves. More specifically, an individual with poor eyesight, medical issues or neglected dental care found it hard to gain employment or advancement when they did not feel good about themselves, nor could they present a positive appearance to any potential employers or reestablish any relationships.
Consequently, in the communities of the United States and around the world there are pockets—deep pockets—of a subcommunity who are invisible to those within the mainstream community. This is due to the fact that to acknowledge the existence of this hurting population by the mainstream community, would be to recognize their humanity and their plight and to be engaged emotionally, and possibly, spiritually.
Imagine being part of a community that in addition to being non-visible also experienced the reality of being voiceless and unable to communicate to others what it would take to increase their quality of life. Even worse to have someone make assumptions on your behalf, even though well-intentioned, and miss the reality of solutions that would be beneficial in promoting one’s well-being and moving the vulnerable upwards to regain their dignity and enjoy abundancy of life.
Fortunately we have a God who assures us, “But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:7) Also, in Isaiah 49:15-16, we read, “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.”
Everyone has a name, and everyone has a voice.
Born in Toronto, Canada, Brian Aird emigrated with his parents to Chicago, Illinois and eventually enjoyed the small town life of Wausau, Wisconsin.
Upon graduation from high school and one year of study at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, a 10-year commitment of service in the United States Navy was afforded which included many opportunities of education, life experience and travel.
After being honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy, he attended The Salvation Army School for Officer’s Training and was commissioned as an officer in The Salvation Army where he served in various communities throughout the western United States for a period of 12 years.
Following this life changing experience, the American Red Cross became a new arena of service for 10 years. Currently, his vocation is once again with The Salvation Army where he serves in Northern California as the business coordinator. Four lovely children and eight darling grandchildren decorate the lives of he and his wife.
He is an avid Green Bay Packers fan, enjoys the game of hockey and loves to write.
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