Friday, March 13, 2009

The Snowball Effect in Savannah

Hinshaw: What would Wesley do?
creede hinshaw Friday, March 13, 2009 at 12:30 am

(Photo: Savannah Morning News)



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This is a true story about two metal outstretched hands on Reynolds Square.
I basked in the sunshine last Friday morning on a park bench in Reynolds Square (the northernmost square on Abercorn Street), having pedaled my bike downtown in the glorious weather. Azaleas were already abloom there. A mockingbird graced the square with song and a honeybee perched on my blue jeans enjoying the sunshine with me.

A bronze John Wesley presides over Reynolds Square, standing atop a pedestal and garbed in his English vestments, his left hand holding a bible and his other arm outstretched in the direction of the Lucas Theatre. The nearby historical marker quotes the sculptor as saying, "Wesley's right hand is stretched out in love."

On a bench across the way sat a woman with a hooded sweatshirt and a plastic bag stuffed with her possessions. Soon a lanky blue jeans-clad man, carrying a bedroll sat on the bench next to mine. He lights a cigarette and we strike up a conversation.

He is in his early 50s, he says, an ex-con twice over having spent 10 years "paying his debt to society" as he describes it. He's been in Savannah six months and wants to find a full-time job as a roofer or a carpenter, but nobody's hiring... especially ex-cons.

He gets odd jobs, but never enough to afford a room for the night. And so he sleeps in ditches and homeless shelters. We talk about the twists and turns of life. He says he would never have imagined 30 years ago that he'd in his present situation. I ask him about his parents. Could he stay with them? They are in their late 70s, he says, and it's all they can do to care for themselves, so he doesn't burden them.

He's come to Reynolds Square because Christ Church serves a free sack lunch later in the morning and he's going to wait in line soon. I must look trustworthy to him because he asks me if I'll watch his bedroll while he finds a bathroom.

Returning to the square he moves to "my" bench and spotting my newspaper asks if he can read the sports section. He reads while I write in my journal. We talk some more and he is on his way.

Later, as I leave the square, I notice the depiction of another outstretched hand, this one emblazoned on a metal sign affixed to a post at about eye level. The open palm of the hand has 40 cents falling into it, dropping as if from heaven. But the hand is encircled in bright red with a red slash running diagonally across the palm. Beneath this symbol are the words:
NO PANHANDLING
City Code 9-1001

I am glad this warning stands at John Wesley's back where he cannot gaze upon it. I believe he would disapprove.

The benches in the square are not church pews, but they could be. And the people sitting on these benches, many of them poor, are not Wesley's parishioners, but they probably would have been.

It may be against the law to beg for food or money in Savannah. But it's not against the law to give voluntarily, and I'm glad churches are freely doing so.

Rev. Creede Hinshaw is pastor at Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church in Savannah.

_________________________________________________________________
One of my friends who is also passionate about ministering to the homeless called me up to tell me about this story. The Divine love of our Heavenly Father is causing a snowball to take effect concerning the story of the man featured in this article, for it is the story of my Flower In The Ditch told through the eyes of one of the most influential figures in Savannah, the Reverend Creede Hinshaw.

My flower in the ditch text messages me constantly. I just got off the phone with him after shooting him a message in response to the article. He told me that the entire conversation he had with the Reverend happened the MORNING AFTER we took him his replacement blankets. The most humbling part of this entire situation, is that earlier on in that week I took my flower to breakfast at Panera Bread and we prayed for Divine Appointments to start happening in his life.

I have goosebumps at the moment. There is no doubt in my mind that our Heavenly Father has stepped in and is moving on his behalf. Keep praying people. This is no mere coincidence. This man needs something to happen in his life and soon. What is even more challenging is the fact that he loves God so much that he will often stay up the entire night just to read his precious scriptures and more often than not, a few of us will wake up in the morning to find a bunch of text messages from our flower challenging us to look up a certain passage and talk to him later about it.

I for one am humbled by this entire situation and will not back down from the task of serving my Heavenly Father. After all, if you do anything to the least of these, you do it as unto our Lord Jesus. How are you taking care of your own flower gardens?

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