Many folks will tell you if you give money to the homeless, they’ll spend it on booze.
Of course, it’s easy to say what you won’t do. It’s much harder to decide what you will do.
When business owner Alan Hardwick, 48, noticed homeless Marvin Boyd, 40, panhandling on a busy city intersection last year, he decided what he would do, what he must do.
“Over the last several years, I’ve taken notice of people who didn’t have as much as I’ve been blessed with, so periodically I’d stop and visit with Marvin and give him a few bucks. He didn’t smell of alcohol, so I felt like he was using the money for food.”
Hardwick saw Boyd as someone “looking for more than just money or food,” so Hardwick started inviting Boyd to church. “Marvin took to it pretty well and everyone liked him.”
Pastor, Barry Smith of Impact Community Church in South Sacramento, admits he had “security concerns, when Boyd spoke to our children.” Nevertheless, he heard “no negative comments.” A fact he calls “unbelievable for a church of over 700 people in attendance.”
After watching Boyd attend for months without ever asking for anything, Smith pulled him aside and said, “Let’s pray about your needs.” After the prayer, Boyd ended up helping the children’s ministry reach out to feed the homeless.
Slowly, but surely, people would help Boyd, because, as Smith explained, “When you meet a genuine, caring, positive, loving person, it makes you want to give.”
Smith credits Hardwick with generating that concern.
“He’s Jesus with skin on — the real deal who backs up what he believes.”
And this summer, Hardwick backed up those beliefs with a sizable down payment.
He started “developing a real heart for getting Marvin out from under the bridge where he had been living.”
Hardwick remembers driving down the road when God gave him an idea to buy a fixer-upper.
Yet Hardwick is no bleeding heart. He’s a businessman who recognizes that helping people is also good business.
“We’re improving on the house, and it should be a good investment for us,” he said.
Hardwick calls it a financial squeeze and wishes he had the money to give Boyd the house.
“But the next best thing was to figure out a way for him to rent the house,” he said.
“It’s not been a bed of roses,” Hardwick said. “I got an education out of the deal.”
Part of that education involved getting Boyd an ID and a birth certificate. Shortly after he moved in, Boyd had a heart attack, requiring immediate surgery.
Hardwick reports that Boyd is doing well in cardiac rehab.
“If he’d had the heart attack under the bridge, he’d have died with no one to call an ambulance.”
I asked Hardwick and Smith whether this has changed them somehow.
“Now, when I’m approached by someone asking for a buck,” said Hardwick, “I buy them lunch. I do that more now that I know Marvin. I think it’s more about doing what God commands us to do than it has to do with judging them for the things we think they should do.”
This summer, Boyd was baptized.
After the baptism, Smith said, “Marvin’s had a lot of influence on people. He’s taught me the power of the few. We thought we would help change Marvin, but really, he’s changed us much more than we could have ever changed him.”