Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) shared a touching story on his Facebook page detailing his recent encounter with a former homeless man he calls “Dave.”
Sasse says that he met Dave during a visit to a homeless shelter, and that Dave now works as the shelter’s cook.
“He’s been beaten and humbled, but he’s a man,” Sasse continued. “He referred to himself multiple times as ‘a drunk, a druggie, a liar, and a thief’ — but in saying this, he wasn’t cowering; he was owning it, as the kind of human who knows how to tell the truth. Importantly, he also called himself ‘a worker.’”
The senator says that “as he walked me through the steps of despair from there, it wasn’t surprising that he ended up homeless (for decades), or that he had some moments where suicide seemed like his only plausible way out.”
“He came into contact with some gritty souls at the shelter who didn’t just smell his stench and turn away; they looked into his eyes and told him they’d help — if he wanted it. He’d grown up around a bar, so he believed he could add some value in a kitchen. Fast forward: After three failures at in-patient rehab, volunteer labor eventually became a real job; broad-shouldered-intervention led to regular attendance at AA; and now he’s landed in an apartment paid for … by his own paychecks. He has his own place — and he has a place.”
After Dave finished his story, Sasse asked him, “Next time I come back here, what’s the best thing I can do to add real value for you as you lead your kitchen? I don’t want mere busy work; I’d want to be tackling actual needs you have as the boss.”
“I’d had tears in my eyes a bunch already this day, but here’s where they almost spilled out. Dave matter-of-factly announced, “Listen, you could obviously dish out meals. You could plate desserts. You could come early and open the vegetables. [There were crates of cans behind him.] You could help clean up.”
“But…when I look out the serving window at these guys, I see myself ten years ago. And you know what they actually need? They need humanity. They need touch. They need you to look them in the eyes and see them – not just look at them. They need you to want to be there.”
“When we’re homeless in this city, we’re pretty fortunate. We know you can almost always get food. That isn’t the real problem. People leaving restaurants with their left-overs will always throw calories at you. But 9 times out of 10 they also throw some spite at you. We know they think we’re worthless.” The ache in his voice showed the wound hadn’t fully healed ten years out.”
“There is always food – but there’s never ‘a dinner,’” Dave told Sasse. Sasse says that by “distinguishing between mere food and an actual ‘dinner,’ he was explaining that there’s no ‘event’ to which the homeless guy is ever invited.”
Sasse then reminded Christians to remember the “last supper,” during which Jesus Christ himself washed the feet of his own disciples.
“Jesus went to his knees to serve his disciples,” Sasse wrote. “To serve guys like Dave. It is, quite simply, the greatest inversion story in history.”
“Then, this messiah — with a donkey as his ride and the gallows as his near destiny — invited them not merely to a refueling with calories, but to a breaking of bread … together,” Sasse wrote. “He called them to “a Feast.” He wanted to reconcile them to him, and to one another.”
Sasse concluded by noting that Dave had served him “without even meaning to.”
“His ‘I’ve got food but I need a dinner’ explanation caused the larger story of this week to spring back to life. In talking about the Feast, he was talking about love. He was preaching to all of us.”