I love gardening. Every day after work, instead of grabbing a beer, I grab the hose and tend to all the plants in my garden, examining each one, admiring the veins and the complexity in each leaf — each one a gift from God. It’s so peaceful and serene. And it reminds me how far I’ve come in my life.
It was my grandmother who taught me how to garden when I was kid.
She also raised me, taught me how to cook, and gave me my values and morals. She was the center of my world and I thought she’d live forever.
But one day in 2004, I got a call at work. When my aunt told me my grandmother had died, it’s like everything around me stopped. I didn’t know how to handle it. So I bottled up all my feelings inside — feelings of hurt, sadness, grief, and frustration. Then, as the days rolled by, all those feelings started growing into anger and rage.
I never talked to anyone about it. Instead, I turned to alcohol. I’d start drinking after work. One drink turned into two drinks, and two drinks turned into too many drinks. And the more I drank, the angrier I got. And violent. I started getting into fights and going to jail on battery charges. I also had two DUIs, in 2006 and 2010. But I couldn’t stop drinking.
One night, however, I found myself drunk, sitting at a train stop on the Green Line. I couldn’t live like that anymore. I screamed out loud that I needed help. And that’s when I went downtown and walked into Union Rescue Mission.
I immediately started anger management classes to get that under control. Then I took 8 months of classes to deal with my last DUI and get my driver’s license back. And I went back to school and studied microenterprise at Pepperdine University.
I also opened up for the first time about my grandmother. My chaplain helped me realize that she’s in a better place and that helped me let her go. I spent three years at Union Rescue Mission. In short, I grew up and today I’m moving forward with my life. I’m working for Toyota, I have a wife, and I’ve even opened my first bank account ever. I guess if I have a New Year’s wish, it’s to establish enough credit to buy a new car in 2015.
Looking back, I see now that Union Rescue Mission, like my grandmother, taught me how to garden — the garden of my own life.
Union Rescue Mission’s Gift Catalog
Union Rescue Mission’s Gift Catalog is a wonderful way to give someone experiencing homelessness the gift of hope this holiday. And when you purchase a gift on behalf of a loved one, you can also send them an e-card to let them know you’ve made this special gift in their honor. Please visit our online Gift Catalog today at urm.org/GiftCatalog
The season of Advent and the days leading up to Christmas are a wonderful time for thoughtful reflection and joyful anticipation as we celebrate the birth of our Savior. This holiday season, please sign up to receive Rev. Andy’s Advent series of daily devotional emails. Each day from November 20 until December 25, you’ll receive scripture and messages focused on the joy of the season. To sign up for these special email devotionals, please visit urm.org/AdventDevotionals
Notes From Andy
Instruments of God’s Love
In her excellent book ‘Pursuing God’s Will Together’, Ruth Haley Barton writes, “One of the first lessons we learn about discernment — from Jesus, anyway — is that it will always tend toward concrete expressions of love with real people rather than theoretical conversations about theology and philosophy. Such conversations are valuable only if they eventually lead us to more concrete expressions of love for the real people who are in need around us.”
To me, that’s what caring people like you and your support of Union Rescue Mission — are all about. You don’t just talk about homelessness, you take concrete steps to do something about it. And in 2014, your faithful support led to a number of concrete expressions of love for those in need on Skid Row. You helped us expand Hope Gardens to house even more moms and kids.
To expand our jobs program and start a thrift store to help more men and women find employment. To open space to provide older men on Skid Row with permanent
shelter and care. And to improve our Learning Center to help more men and women achieve their academic goals. Working together, taking concrete steps, we’ll continue to make a real difference for people experiencing homelessness in 2015.