Walking onto the broken asphalt parking lot at 20th and Winnie streets one early Saturday morning, the smell of unwashed bodies and urine wafts through the air, the steaming hot sun beating down on already sweat-soaked backs and arms, mixes with the sweetest smell of all — the love of God that covers this lot where many of the homeless gather every week to hear a redeeming message from Rick Henson, pastor of Galveston Street Ministry.

A man who isn’t any different from you or me, in the ordinary sense of the word, but different in the extraordinary; he’s all about them — those people who many choose not to see. Their struggles with addiction, joblessness and a pervasive mindset of poverty is as real to them as our struggles with mortgages, job promotions and college tuition.

The pastor and volunteers labor under the sweltering sun serving breakfast, clothes, hugs and prayers, offering hope to the hurting and hungry. Hungry people who yearn for something better, but can’t reach beyond today. But this Saturday morning gathering, rain or shine, meets them where they are, offering renewal and hope.

It’s a place of power. Power in that love extended without expectation puts salve upon a fractured soul, transforming regret into possibilities — for a moment. A moment turning into the miraculous. A moment for God to restore a person’s heart and life.

My clothes sticking to me after two hours of serving this growing population of homelessness in Galveston, I reflect over the peace within. The inner satisfaction that I feel knowing I connected with another human being and met a need of theirs, even if it was minuscule in my mind, it was huge in theirs.

I mean, what am I really going to do for them for a morning? I serve the food, offer a prayer, scoop up a snow cone, all temporal, but when I look into their eyes and see them, that’s love everlasting. And they know and receive it. That’s the love of God that extends to all people, regardless of skin color, job title or political ideology.

A good education and reflective reading helps everyone rise intellectually, financially and spiritually, and ameliorates wise choices in life. This Saturday morning served as a reminder of how important that choice is. Poor decisions, lack of education or unforeseen circumstances can land any of us on that parking lot.

I’m determined to help my students be emotionally and intellectually grounded, lifting others up in love without judgment. To see everyone as fellow sojourners through life as equal participants.

No matter the state one finds people in, the best way to live fully is to serve others, an unpopular theme in opposition to today’s culture. However, if you need a deeper perspective about your life, get up early and meet love in action on the parking lot at 8 a.m. And remember, it matters where you park in life. See you on the corner of 20th and Winnie streets in Galveston.

Leslie Cappiello is an educator and lives in Galveston.

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Bailey Jones

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