It’s amazing how the crumbs leftover from my table can have such a positive impact on the lives of others. Pennies, nickels, and dimes is all it is, really, but those “crumbs” have changed stories of brokenness to stories of redemption, and stories doomed to repeated cycles of pain and fear, to repeated cycles of love and hope.
Mark’s story, below, has always been one of the most meaningful to me. I realize as I grow in my Christian walk, that my life, my “story” was never really meant to be for me alone. God has given us each a story, and they all can become so beautifully intertwined that the end result is a symphony of sounds and experiences that are no longer my meager individual song, but a perfectly orchestrated masterpiece. My life is not MY story, but only a part of OUR collective “story”. Mark’s story has become a part of mine because it has inspired me to give more, live more, and trust more.
What if he had never shared his story? Or allowed God to do something beautiful with it? It would remain nothing more than brokenness. The end of the story would be pain, sadness, and hopelessness. If Mark can allow God to bring healing to his brokeness, so that his story can become part of mine, then surely I can do the same. And what a humbling honor if then in turn, my story can become a part of someone else’s.
“YOUR CRUMB DONATIONS SAVED MY LIFE”
“By Mark, a family man”
All I know is my birth parents were out of my life before I was 5. Also there were no grandparents ever. An “uncle Kevin” is who I lived with. For some reason when I was 10 years old, I went and hid from Uncle Kevin in my neighbor’s back yard. He found me, duck taped my arms and legs and toss me in the closet for the rest of the night. This became my punishment for the next 3 years. I still hate closets. Hate closets so much that in my home, I have removed all the closet doors.
A learning disability added to me not doing well in school. Uncle Kevin was told by school officials that I needed more discipline at home resulting in me living in the closet. The school system gave up on me when I was 13 years old saying I would never graduate but my test scores would too high for me to be put in special classes. I left school and Uncle Kevin at age 13 and have been on my own ever since. It is very easy to get forgotten about in the good old USA, if you are too dumb for school and too scare to live on the streets.
I manage to keep my nose clean so cops didn’t notice me and eventually learn to blend in the homeless camp for awhile. But I was tall for my age so was able to get a job with a guy who cut trees and did lawn care. As part of my pay, his wife and him let me stay in one of their apartments in east Chattanooga. Again, I was too afraid to go anywhere but work and this managed to keep me out of trouble.
But when I turned 25, depression hit. The man who I had been working for died. I lost my job of 11 years and my apartment. I had no identification. I had never been on a date and realize I would never be a husband, a dad, or have a family. I have no driver’s license. I could not read or write very much. I was afraid of everything and everyone. Also it hit me that I was 25 years old with no past, no presence, and not future. I took a long log chain heading to the rail tracks with a plan to hang myself with it. This ended up being my miracle.
On my way to the tracks, I walked by the Community of Christ ministry center. There were people there trying to pull a bush out of the ground with a pick-up truck and a strap. They were not having any luck and I offered the use of my log chain. It worked and the bush came out easy. I was so moved by how happy these guys were. They joked around and yet noticed every person who walked by and greeted them with an hello. After the bush was pulled out, I picked up my log chain to head down to the railroad tracks, but they invited me to hang out with them and I did. We played basketball, at a lot of hot wings, and I went to my very first movie theater with them. I was a stranger but they took me in like I belonged there forever. It was the best time I have ever had. When they offered to bring me home, something came over me and i felt a trusting attitude. I broke down and told them I had no home along with the story I just told you all. They told me, if I promise to attend church tomorrow they would put my in a hotel for a couple of nights. The next morning, I went to church for my very first time and met God there. They did some baptisms and Mr. Jimmy spoke and said that when we get baptized, God blesses us with the promise of the Holy Spirit who guarantees us that we will never ever ever ever ever ever be alone. I cried and cried. Not being along ever again sounded so good. I got baptized that very afternoon and it is true that I have never been alone since.
More than 3 years later, I am married to a wonderful woman with a little girl who calls me dad. This Christmas will be my very first FAMILY CHRISTMAS and my church family gave us a FAMILY BIBLE. I have my driver’s license, attending GED classes, renting a home, have bills to paid (which is a grown-up thing), have a church family, talks to God, do family devotions, attend counseling sessions learning I am not a dumb loser, read the bible all the was through (I can read now), am one of the ground keepers for my wife’s employer (have to work Sundays but host a WE CARE group on Mondays), and I smile a lot.
I asked my pastors not to use my name if I wrote this because of fear of something or someone from my past. But I know now perfect love casts out all fear, so my name is Mark and I am a life changed by Jesus Christ using your crumbs. After my baptism, your crumbs helped lift me up and gave me a foundations so I could work on establishing a foundation with God. Please realize your crumb donations are life savers. Not only did it help save my life, but it gave me enough dignity to find peace in Jesus!”
Amazing, right? I hope Mark’s story can become a part of yours as well. I don’t really know how OUR collective story will go, but I know the end of our story is victory.