Me N Tom

My mail route is just a few blocks away from my church. There is this house on my route that is basically a flop house. The people that live there are on welfare and just get drunk all the time. There is this one guy who always calls me "governor". I found out that his name is Tom. One time, he sort of hinted around that we should get together for dinner or something. Then one day I mentioned that I couldn’t on a Sunday because I go to church. He asked me what kind of church I went to. I said I went to a Christian church. He said, "Well yeah, but what damon… Denona…" He was finally able to get out some semblance of the word denomination out. I told him I went to a Baptist church. He said, "I’m a Baptist." He proceeded to tell me (as he was drunk and swaying and staggering) that he was a Christian, that his name is in the Lamb’s book of life, that Jesus is the one who put his name in the book of life, and no one can ever take it out.

So a couple months after that, he mentions again about getting together for a meatloaf dinner. I said instead that I could pick him up for church on Sunday. He said he would be ready. I stopped by there but someone said that he was still sleeping. The next day when I was on the route he came out to talk to me.

I apologize for not being ready for church when you came by.  The reason why I didn’t go with you, is because I was afraid.

Well, that’s okay. It’s just if you want to go.

I want to go to church with you, but I don’t own a suit.

You don’t have to have a suit to go to church.

Well, if I go to church with you, I want to do it right.

You don’t have to wear a suit to church. I don’t wear a suit to church.

But if I do go to church with you, I want to do my best.

I basically told him he could go dressed just like he was, which I’m sure you can guess, was poorly dressed by the world’s standards. Later that week he told me that he was only drinking diet pop instead of beer because he wanted to go to church with me.

So I start picking Tom up for church each Sunday right around August of last year (2006). Not all at once, but little by little, his life begins to change. Pretty soon, he is ready to meet me when I deliver the mail, and walks with me to the end of the street and then back until we get back to his house. While we are walking, I’m delivering the mail and we are talking about the Bible. Come to find out, at one point, he was studying to be a preacher. But he says that he took a wrong turn in his life. Pretty soon he stops drinking alcohol altogether, much to the chagrin of some of his friends who enjoy him better as a drunk. Tom shared with me that the very week before I mentioned about going to church with him, he had laid his head back on his pillow while in bed and said, "LORD, help me." He said I was an answer to his prayer.

Things get fairly tense for him as he realizes he has to stay away from the alcohol from now on, but his friends are pressuring him to drink again. His big milestone was going for one whole month without drinking any alcohol. But his friends are making it difficult for him. He tells me he is afraid he is going to have to find another home. But around this same time, his relationship with his son begins to mend. His son really wants him to find another home as well. Amidst trying to work something out, Tom calls his son up and asks if he can just come and live with him and his girlfriend. Tom’s son, who lives out by me, agrees. So now, instead of coming in to town and then picking up Tom just before I get to church, I pick up Tom just after I leave my house. I don’t get to walk with him any more on the route.

A couple months after picking Tom up for Sunday School and church, I asked him about coming to Sunday Evening Service. He shares some things that I had known, but didn’t realize how serious they were. Tom is a disabled veteran. He has flashbacks to when he sat in the cockpit of a helicopter. He has problems if he goes out in the evening. But he overcomes some of his fears to come out for Sunday Evening Services.

Then one Sunday in December, instead of evening services, there are the pastors’ open houses. I tell Tom that he is welcome to go to the open houses with my wife and I. He decides to do it. So throughout the afternoon and evening, it seems like my family is – myself, my wife, and Tom. Then for New Year’s Eve, there was an announcement that there would be games over at a certain person’s house late into the evening/morning. Tom asks me if I’m going. I tell him that I was. He asks if he can come. So I brought him to the New Year’s Eve get together. He laughed, helped play CatchPhrase, and sang along when we played Encore. He was even a good sport when the guys played Risk after midnight. He joined in on a game and did his best.

I was concerned about these two events. I wondered if Tom would do okay socially with folks. He struggles with everyday conversation at times, occasionally fumbling with his words. But it was really good to have him with me on those two events. This was a growing experience for me. I realized many of the unspoken prejudices I have in my heart. Tom basically has little more than a few clothes. But he and I are brothers in the LORD and that means we are equals when it comes to our standing in the Kingdom of God.

And the more I realized it, I wasn’t so much concerned with how Tom would do socially with other folks, but how other folks would do socially with him. I know the hearts of people. We judge by appearances. And I know that many people will judge Tom by his appearance. They will look at his missing teeth, his lack of a haircut, his worn jeans, and his slightly dirty T-shirt and make their judgement based on that.

It seems that Tom is getting sharper every week. He said he wanted to get his guitar tuned that he might play a Christian song that he used to play. I hooked him up with a dear brother who went over to Tom’s (his son’s actually), helped tune his guitar, and then listened to him sing and play. This brother told me that Tom has a great singing voice. I ‘m anxious to hear him as that was just about a week and a half ago.

All the glory has to go to the LORD for this.  I did not have it within myself.  Tom also did not have it within himself.  The ability for me to reach out to him, and the ability for Tom to overcome his addiction all comes from our Great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.  My life is a lot different today than it was a year ago, thanks to Tom.  He has taught me so much.

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

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