The meal we serve in our church each Tuesday with our partners from Outreached Arms had been over for a while, and most of the hundred or so guests had left. Johnny was talking to volunteers, and carefully packing and re-packing his backpack, reluctant to leave. Allison, one of the regular volunteers came over to my wife to say that Johnny needed gloves. Sharon, founder of Outreached Arms, found a pair of cotton work gloves. Johnny really needed winter gloves, so Allison volunteered to bring Johnny a new pair the next week.
Johnny had been a regular at these meals, but the following week he was nowhere to be seen. Later we found out why. The night after eating with us, Johnny had been shot multiple times and died on the steps in the Spring Garden neighborhood on the North Side. Surveillance video showed two men walking with Johnny, then running away from the scene
Part of what makes life on the street so hard is the pecking order where the strong lord it over the weak. Johnny was small and thin, an obvious target.
Each week at these meals I see hurting people, many living on the street, sit up a little straighter and smile a little brighter. For an hour or so they get treated with dignity, and get to enjoy a hot meal in a safe place. One pastor visiting this week for the first time told me he was amazed at how many of our guests and volunteers knew each other by name.
This week Allison posted a selfie on her Facebook page that she took with Johnny at the Outreached Arms Christmas Party. “I considered it an honor to have served you,” she wrote.
Thank God for people like Allison.