“You look like a guy who could use a cup of coffee.” Shivering from Portland’s winter rain, Don* gratefully accepted the hot mug, treasuring its warmth in his cold, stiff hands, feeling it radiate through his body. The simple, kind gesture by a Mission staff member grabbed Don’s heart. Once again, he was amazed. These were people who cared.
Don’s mind flashed back to a much different experience last fall. After burning out every friendship, he laid down on a wet, freezing sidewalk in devastating acceptance of how far he’d fallen. After 25 years as a professional teacher and musician, alcohol had torn apart everything he’d loved – his marriage, children, home and career. The humiliation of being homeless hit hard.
“I made a little hut and pulled the cardboard up around me, because I didn’t have a blanket,” Don recalls. “Eventually, a guy came along and said I couldn’t sleep there.” Don apologetically gathered his things, only to discover most of it had been stolen. He’d have to spend that day in another cycle of finding basics like a toothbrush, shower, clothes and food. It was a fight for survival in the midst of the greatest heartache he’d ever experienced.
“Once you’re on the street, people look at you differently,” Don says. “I wasn’t a professional anymore. I’m not Don down the street with the nice wife and kids. I’m not anyone’s friend. I’m nothing.”
After days without food, sitting down to a real meal at the Mission was more than just relief from hunger. “That meal was a new start, a doorway for me to walk through,” Don says. “If I can have this meal every day, maybe I can get a routine. Maybe I can talk to someone and figure a way out of this mess. That meal was hope – absolutely.”
“Don, I see something in you,” one of our Burnside Shelter staff said, taking Don by surprise. In a busy day, someone was taking time to focus entirely on helping him out of his situation. “You’re in a bad place right now. You just need to do the next right thing, and I’m going to help you decide what that is.” The kindness in his words, the way he listened and truly wanted to help, was something Don hadn’t recently experienced.
Don joined our New Life Ministry at The Harbor for a yearlong journey of ending his addiction, drawing closer to God and rebuilding his life with practical skills.
The serenity of The Harbor brought Don a new pace and perspective. “I was always striving, searching for the next thing, making something happen,” says Don. Now he’s slowed down to listen to God, soak up insights from counseling, and accept challenging truths. Instead of pushing people away, he’s leaning in to supportive relationships.
Don is embracing a new life filled with gratitude for a second chance. “I don’t have to go back to what I was,” says Don. “It’s so huge and so beautiful what God has for me.”
*Name changed for privacy.
A meal at the Mission changed the course of Don’s life. Please give today to provide that same life-restoring care to more hurting people.
Read more stories from our Fall Newsletter HERE: