Saturday, April 21, 2007

Can Life Be Changes With a Hot Dog?

Sherry Gafney lived in a homeless camp with cardboard for walls. She prostituted herself in order to make some money for food and other necessities. Today she’s being interviewed on CBS News because she is overcoming alcoholism, holds down two jobs and has her own apartment. Her life has turned around 180 degrees and she gives the credit to a hot dog, or more specifically the “hot dog man”.

Rick Swyden lives in Oklahoma City, runs his own small business, is married and fathers 5 children. He’s just a regular guy. But one day he bought a meal for a “street person” and in his own words it changed his life. Rick began going into Oklahoma City looking for the homeless and offering them a hot dog meal. One day he met Sherry and gave her a hot dog. Sherry says that hot dog changed her life. Rick’s group began to encourage Sherry, helped her get employment and free from alcohol and now she has a sane and productive life.

Sherry clarifies, “It wasn’t really the hot dog that changed my life but the love that gave the hot dog.”

And so it is with the power of love. This past week I had a 60 something man tell me that when he was in the middle of a health crisis about six months ago, someone cared enough about him that they took a week off from work and helped him literally get back on his feet and resume his life. The man commented about his benefactor, “He changed my life that week.”

I witnessed a young man who has a history of angry outbursts and troublesome relationships now living with greater peace and sanity because his “buddy” has helped him to learn how to deal with anger and sadness and to not get the two confused. His “buddy” has changed his life.

I could go on. Today’s reflection has reminded me how powerful love is. Love can open a closed heart to the presence of God and the working of His grace in and around them.

Rick Swyden handed out 16 hot dogs on the first day of his new life. Now he hands out about 300 every week. There’s a whole group of donors and volunteers that have joined in the effort. They all consider it the highlight of their week. They don’t just hand out a meal but they get to shake hands and give hugs and simply let others know that they matter. The love exchange has become intoxicating as Rick confesses, “I’m addicted to this now.”

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