Jack is a guest of CARITAS this week, which is a Latin word for “charity,” but also stands for “Congregations Around Richmond Involved to Assure Shelter.” What it means for Jack is a warm, safe place to spend the night, and this week CARITAS is at Richmond’s First Baptist Church, where 80 of our homeless neighbors have found a warm, safe place. I was there to volunteer last night, and got a chance to talk with Jack:
Jim: Tell me about CARITAS.
Jack: CARITAS is a very nice place. It’s saved my life. I was sleeping outside. I knew about CARITAS because I was staying at The Healing Place. I didn’t want to go to CARITAS. It was summertime. I enjoyed sleeping outside.
Jim: How did you become homeless?
Jack: I was the manager of a convenience store. I was making $60,000 a year. I thought I would never be homeless. I had a house, a wife, a dog…but then I lost everything.
Jim: What did it?
Jack: Alcoholism. Alcoholism ruined my life. I started drinking when I was 11. My parents tried to help me get straightened out. Didn’t work. I “died ” three different times.
Jim: What have you learned from your experience?
Jack: I’ve learned a lot. Don’t ever look down on folks. When I had money, I used to look down on the homeless. I thought they were a bunch of bums. Hanging around parks, taking advantage of people. Since I’ve been homeless, I’ve learned that not all homeless people are bad. A lot of them are like I am; just trying to get by. No matter what you might think, we are still human beings.
Jim: What are your dreams for the future?
Jack: Try to get my life back together, and don’t forget where I came from. I’d like to give back what was so freely given to me since I’ve been homeless.
I probably passed by your church about 5,000 times, but the first time I came inside was when I became homeless. I come to Community Missions on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. I come to Grace Fellowship on Thursday night. I come to my AA meeting here at First Baptist. I want to come to services someday, when I get a suit and tie. I was baptized in Pine Street Baptist Church, on Oregon Hill. That’s where I grew up.
Jim: This year our church is on a mission trip called KOH2RVA. We’re trying to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia. Since you’ve been with us, has heaven ever come to earth for you?
Jack: I have the feeling God has led me here, that God wanted me to be in this church. I’m headed down this spiritual path, but I don’t know where it’s headed.
Jim: Well, I think it’s headed toward God. I think he loves you and wants you for his own. And look at you: you’ve already been featured on the pastor’s blog! What’s next?
Jack: I don’t know…Oprah?