Readers, I’m a bit slow getting back into my blogging routine after the holidays. So I’ve dusted off an article I wrote a couple of years ago that was originally well received. I look forward to your comments.
About ten years ago my wife Carol and I had the idea of starting a ministry to the hungry and the lonely. It eventually became known as The Jesus Table where people meet every Tuesday night for a meal and a conversation. When we started we really didn’t know what we were doing. We were learning on the fly.
One of the ideas that has become a signature part of this ministry was having table hosts at every table. There are many benevolent meal sites throughout the Portland metro area. What I believe makes The Jesus Table unique is our table hosts. Every week our table hosts, host the same table. Over time, our guests begin developing a relationship with the table host of their choosing. The relationship starts slowly but as the years go by a deep friendship develops. You see, our guests come for the meal (which is excellent by the way) but their much deeper need is to know that someone cares for them.
My Friend Mike
One of our regular guests at The Jesus Table for a meal was Mike (not his real name). When Mike originally came several years ago he was addicted to methamphetamine. But as the month’s progressed he was doing all the right things to live clean and sober. For a couple of years Mike did well with managing his addiction. And then one day, Mike relapsed.
Mike’s relapse reminds me of the story of the boy and the starfish. There was a young boy walking along the beach. The night before there had been a violent storm at sea and the seashore was littered with tens of thousands of starfish. As the warmth of the morning sun heated up the sand, the starfish were doomed to die if they didn’t make it back into the water. The boy understood their fate and was tossing them back into the ocean when an old man approached him. He said to the boy, “Don’t you realize your task is hopeless?” as the old man looked at all the starfish on the beach. The boy replied, “Not to this one it isn’t,” as he tossed another starfish back into the ocean.
The Evil of Addiction
When Mike relapsed, I felt the emotional pain of losing a friend to the evil of addiction. It hurt deeply. The good news is that Mike’s relapse was short and he’s back on the road to recovery. But the lesson I learned is this: I can’t help everyone who is addicted. The task is overwhelming, but I can help one person in their addiction. And I choose Mike. I asked Mike if he would like to get together once a week to share a meal and a conversation one-on-one. Sometimes we read through and discuss a book of the Bible; other times we discuss a secular book that has sound, practical wisdom on how to tackle the challenges of life. But I believe the real hook for Mike is that he realizes someone who is normal (his word for describing the non-addicted) cares for him.
Choose Your “Mike”
There are very few families in this country today that are not adversely affected by the epidemic of drugs and alcohol ravaging our country. If you are one of the fortunate few who don’t have at least one family member caught in the web of addiction, then you have a friend or a co-worker who is. You can’t help everyone, but you can choose to help someone. Choose your “Mike.” They need to know that someone – you – truly cares.
Source: The Starfish Story: one step towards changing the world by Peter Straube, Events for Change, June 5, 2011, https://eventsforchange.wordpress.com/2011/06/05/the-starfish-story-one-step-towards-changing-the-world/