SOUTH LYON – Looking back on life, I can’t really remember how Tim and I became friends. I do remember a very unkind voice message that he left for me on the church message machine one time, and I got in my truck to drive around town until I found him and asked that he not do that again.
To my surprise, the next day I was sitting in my office with him helping him to write a resume for a job that he was wanting.
I would see him walking all over town, usually standing in front of a building smoking and talking to some folks. Every now and then, he would stop by to visit and then take off.
During Covid, we started doing our morning worship services outside and he became a regular. He would show up early to help us set up chairs and take them down when we were done.
As we moved back into the building, he became pretty faithful in his attendance on Sunday mornings.
Like a lot of people, he was stressed because of job loss and needed help with filing for unemployment. Once again, I found myself filling out his unemployment forms and submitting them. Every few days he would stop by the church to see if I had heard anything about his unemployment check.
I would always tell him that he would know that his check had arrived when the money was directly deposited into his account. That never seemed to be what he wanted to hear.
He would never admit it but I always suspected that Tim was homeless. He never would give me an address when I pressed him on it so I would always put the church address down when I needed to fill in a spot just to keep things going. He also wore a heavy coat and heavy work boots, even on the hottest days of summer.
He eventually landed a job for a brief period and was excited about getting an apartment. I could tell by the answers that he was giving me about the conversation with those who worked at the apartment complex that they were just pulling his leg, and that he would not be living there anytime soon.
When the job came to an end, Tim once again came to the church for assistance. He never asked for money or a handout, he just wanted help with filling out forms that he didn’t understand on the government computer system.
While we were doing some remodeling in the church that year, Tim would stop to watch or even help if he could. He was pretty comfortable stopping by and staying for different lengths of time.
I noticed, as things began to get cold, Tim was stopping by more often and lingering longer. He would always ask if I had heard anything about his unemployment money. Government agencies can move slowly and there is usually no caring voice at the other end of the phone.
I remember the last time I saw Tim was at an Operation Christmas Child packing party that we were having on a Sunday night at the church.
Tim came with his usually heavy coat and work boots. His hair was sticking up all over, but he was happy and upbeat. The year before he just stood and watched as everyone would pack boxes with toys, soap, washcloths, hats, etc. but this year, he was participating.
I’ve got pictures on my phone of Tim working with others to fill boxes. You could tell from his smile that he was having a good time and later stayed to enjoy hot chocolate and cookies with all of us as we finished up the job to get ready to go home.
For some reason, the cold air of the night bothered me as I made my way to my van to head home that night. After a long day, I was ready to climb into my nice warm bed and pull the covers up to go to sleep.
As I worked on that following Tuesday, I fully expected at some point in the day to have Tim knocking at my office door to check on his unemployment money. To my surprise, he didn’t show.
By Thursday, I began to wonder, especially since he seemed desperate for the money and he was always good about being there to check in on the day he was supposed to.
So, I decided to jump in my van and drive around town to see if I could find him. I stopped by the local stores and asked about him. I stopped by some of those who seemed to be good friends. Nobody seemed to know what he was doing or where he was at.
I thought maybe he had gone to stay with family somewhere for the holidays.
Later that day, he was found, laying on the floor of a metal shed in the trailer park next to the church, with a plastic tarp pulled up to keep him warm. No one knew how long he had been there or how long he had been using the shed as a place to sleep.
Since he had no family that we knew of to claim his body, the state buried him in a grave with a number on the marker.
There are “feel good” moments in our lives when we pat ourselves on the back because we have done a “good deed” for someone or, we have reached out in some small way and it hasn’t really cost us anything but maybe a little time.
As the Christmas Season approaches, we might give some change in a red kettle, or pack a box with cheap toys and odds and ends. If we really go the extra mile, we might even give the wait staff an extra tip for their service.
As a Child of God, how far do we really go to help others? How caring are we?
Some people are calling out right in front of you and so many times, we just do enough to make ourselves feel good.
These are things we don’t really think about until something forces us to see it upfront and personal like I did, with Tim.
“For God so loved the world that He gave….” I’m not sure we will truly understand what it means to care until we truly know what it means to give like God gave. He sent His one and only Son because of His love for you and for me.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Randy Weaks is the Associate Pastor/Youth Pastor of First Baptist Church of South Lyon.