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The Greatest Compliment, Insult and Three Good Movies…

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I had the blessing of going with my son and some friends from the Rochester parish to the Metropolis of Chicago – Western Region Basketball Tournament in Kansas City two weeks ago. Since I was at the national headquarters of FOCUS North America, I wanted them to see what I did for a living. On Friday night, we went to our Reconciliation Services – Focus Kansas City Center (which also serves as our home office) to serve a meal to the homeless. Evan (my son) asked me, “What do I do?” I said, “Get a plate and give it to someone, and sit down and talk with them.” He said, “Sit down and talk?” I said “Yes, that is the Lord Jesus Christ sitting there. What are you going to do? Slop his food in front of Him and take off?”  He did it. He ended up visiting with two different people. One he talked baseball with for a long time. Afterwards he told me how much it changed his impression about many things.

focus-kitchenMeanwhile, I met a man whom I will call “C”. C had booze on his breath, and for some reason, even though I was wearing sweat pants and a sweat shirt, he knew I was some kind of clergy. I asked how he knew, and he said God told him. C and I joked with each other for a long time. We were having a blast when he finally he told me what had happened to him; it was drugs, then a lost job, and then a lost family. When C is ready he will go upstairs at our center and meet with Fr. Paisius or other counselors and start to get his life back. I think this will be soon. As C was leaving, he hugged me and said that I was one good m***** f*****. I said, “Thanks”; it was the greatest compliment anyone ever gave me.

Later that weekend, Ari, the friend from our parish told me about his experience. He said all my talking and presentations about FOCUS North America were not that effective. Even our DVD was nothing compared to this real experience of serving the homeless. That was my greatest insult, but I welcomed it.

As you can see, the most effective way to reach a person is through friendship. At the recommendation of many people, I saw three good movies this last month; “The Soloist”, “Precious” and “The Blindside”.  What all three movies witness to is the importance of friendship and the effect it can have on those in need.  All the programs and monetary funding in the world will never replace someone who cares, takes a chance and becomes a friend. Miracles can even happen as we saw in the true story behind the movie, “The Blindside.” My bet is that most of the people we saw that night in Kansas City probably had a family who also tried and tried to help but eventually gave up on them. Many probably had given up on themselves. But now what? What will happen to them? Whose “problem” will they be now? They have become “the least” that the Lord talks about in Matthew 25.

This is the essence of what FOCUS North America is all about. Yes, we would love more programs; yes, we would love more money, but what we really want is you and them to become friends. And here is the real mystery…you will benefit from it most! Below I have passed along what the others experienced that night serving the homeless…

Fr. Nick,

I wanted to express my humble and a sincere thank you to everyone involved in FOCUS North America. I had the opportunity to help serve meals on a snowing cold night in Kansas City last Friday. Although I have thankfully and with God's grace been able to help serve people in need before, this was the first time I had experienced this type of event. I was overwhelmed with how happy and uplifting the atmosphere was. My two daughters and my wife along with a family from our church volunteered together. I hope and pray that God's message of helping those in need continues to be part of my family’s future. Upon finishing the evening, I took a moment to pray. I prayed for God to keep his spirit and strength in everyone there, and I prayed for God to hold a special place for his children in need in His kingdom. Finally, I wanted to apologize for eating so many cookies that were set aside for the homeless, I just couldn’t help it…

John – 40 years old

Fr. Nick,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to help out the people who are less fortunate than we are. When I got to the soup kitchen, I saw the people and I instantly realized that what we did for them helped them so much. Those people didn't have much, and when we helped them and gave them food, it made me realize how lucky I was to have what I have. This experience was wonderful, and it made me change my state of mind about many things.

Theoni – 12 years old

Fr. Nick

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to volunteer at the Kansas City soup kitchen. It was so much fun to help out and see a different side of our world that I hadn’t really experienced before. And I was so surprised to see that all of these starving people still had smiles on their faces. I definitely want to help out again.

Deanna – 14 years old

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