Normally, few people would care that Marvin Boyd, 55, will die before next Christmas. Alan Hardwick, 53, decided to start caring. Now an entire church will mourn his passing.
You may remember Boyd from the column I wrote five years ago recounting how Hardwick met Boyd, a homeless panhandler, on an intersection near our church. Hardwick gave him a few bucks, but soon saw that Boyd needed far more than money.
Hardwick invited Boyd to church and despite Boyd’s disheveled resemblance to a worn-out Santa Claus, Hardwick remembers that “Marvin took to church pretty well and, everyone liked him.”
Several months later, Marvin asked Hardwick if he would baptize him. He did.
When our pastor, Barry Smith, introduced Marvin for baptism, he reminded our congregation that, “Marvin taught us the power of the few. We thought we would change Marvin, but he’s changed us more than we could’ve ever changed him.”
However, Hardwick knew he must offer more than just a hamburger and a hymnal. He’d read the interesting question posed toward in the Christian New Testament from a guy named James:
“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?”
Hardwick answered the question with a down payment on a fixer-upper home for Marvin.
After Boyd moved in, he had a serious heart attack, but amazingly he did well through surgery and rehab. However, early last year, doctors made an “incidental finding.”
Cancer! And not just a little cancer ­— a boatload that includes bone, stomach and colon cancer.
Last Sunday, as Marvin and I stood outside our church, he said his doctors at UC-Davis found 12 spots in his stomach that will soon burst. Since that event will likely put him in a coma, doctors want him in hospice.
Marvin doesn’t see bedrest as an option. He has a message to spread.
Surprised at his answer, I told Marvin that some people would find this as a justification to curse God. Again, not an option. “I try to be joyful no matter what is going on. I don’t have no sadness.”
Hardwick believes that meeting Marvin has changed him. “Now, when someone asks me for a buck, I buy them lunch because I know Marvin.”
Marvin recently thanked Hardwick, telling him, “I just can’t thank you enough for what you’ve done for me over the past years.” Then he made Hardwick this tearful promise: “I’m going to be standing there with a fishing pole waiting on you.”
Burkes is a syndicated columnist, national speaker and author of No Small Miracles. He also serves as an Air National Guard chaplain and is board-certified in the Association of Professional Chaplains. You can call him at 321-549-2500, email him at , visit his website or write him at P.O. Box 247, Elk Grove, CA 95759.