Gary is one of the most joyful, energetic, caring and compassionate people I have ever met. He loves books, the sunset, his friends and genuinely finds joy and purpose in helping people in need. I’ve never seen him without a huge smile stretched across his face or a fire in his eyes as he makes it his daily mission to help those who need it. Gary also lives in a van. The day I first met Gary, he was so excited to show me around his van. He has all of his belongings perfectly organized in their places and is very proud of the little home he has made for himself.
We often think that the poor always need help and won’t have anything to give back in return. However, Gary proves that idea wrong every single day. No, he doesn’t have much to give, but he daily gives his time, energy and friendship to those who need it the most. He goes out of his way to help his neighbors. Even if those people aren’t able to give him anything in return, he continues serving them day after day. He does everything he can to share the joy and comfort that he has found in the world with others.
Most people would look at Gary’s situation and wouldn’t want to be in his place, but Gary is truly joyful in his circumstances. He does this by finding joy in the little things. The sunset is just one example. One of the most striking things Gary said to me the first day I met him was this: “I can’t buy the sunset…but that’s my sunset. No one can take the sunset away from me.”
Gary doesn’t have much by our American standards. But he is content in his circumstances because he has found the things that bring him joy in his life. Those things aren’t things that money can buy. They aren’t things that can be taken away from him.
I’ve heard Gary tell a story about the time he started a “sunset club” when he was in jail. He loved watching the sunset every night, even when he was spending his nights in a jail cell. He loved it so much that he wanted to share it with others. He would go sit outside in the grass in the middle of the area where others were busy doing their own activities. Gradually, as others saw him there, they would begin to sit next to him in the middle of the jail yard and watch the sunset with him. That’s a pretty good picture of peace in the midst of chaos. Joy in the midst of suffering.
Gary’s story is a beautiful reminder to me of how much God has blessed us with the simple things in life. Regardless of what else is going on in our lives, we can find joy and peace from things like stopping to watch the sunset. But also, these things aren’t meant to be kept to ourselves. I love how Gary didn’t want to keep this joy a secret. He knew that others would benefit from it too, so he did what he could to get them out there with him. The joy that we have been given is meant to be shared with others, and I think Gary has that figured out a lot better than I do.
(Authored by a Hope Impacts volunteer, provided by The 25 Group.)