Just Another Homeless Guy
Before meeting Eddie, I didn’t have much sympathy for guys like him. Whenever I would drive by or walk by someone holding a sign, thoughts of doubt and skepticism would run through my mind. “Homeless Veteran: Need Money for Food.” “Single Mother on Street. Anything Helps.” It’s not that I didn’t think any of the stories were real, I just didn’t know which ones were true, which were not, and who was trying to play me for a dollar. My general response was to look the other way, and give my money where at least I had some visibility into how it would be used to really help people.
Then Eddie came along.
Before my family and I moved out to Lakeway, we lived about a mile from downtown Austin in a more central part of the city. Eddie lived under a bridge not too far from our house. We often passed by the spot where he sat out by the street when we were in the car or on our weekly run together with the kids in the stroller. After regularly seeing Eddie on the corner for a few months, my wife, Anne, felt like God was leading her to reach out to Eddie. So she decided to stop by to talk with him on one of her runs.
When I got home from work that night, Anne started telling me about her first meeting with Eddie and shared some of his story. At first, the normal skepticism started filling my mind. Based on Anne’s reaction, I knew I was probably going to have to get involved somehow, or feel guilty for being the heartless jerk who was putting an end to my family’s new homeless outreach program before it had really even began.
The situation felt all too familiar. I wanted to assess all the pros and cons of this new relationship before any decisions were made. My first reaction was protective towards my family. Of course this would be the wisest and best approach for our family to take. I personally wasn’t scared of hanging around Eddie. I just didn’t want to get taken advantage of, and I certainly didn’t want that for our family. Regardless, I reluctantly agreed to stop by on our next family run and spend some time with Eddie so that I could hear his story too.
Over the next few weeks we started spending more time with Eddie. The more time that I spent with him, the more I actually liked him. Yes, there were plenty of challenges to being in a relationship with Eddie, but I sensed that he really did have a good heart. He was an Iraq war veteran, and he had some serious personal demons that he had never been able to get rid of. He was a severe alcoholic, with the worst physical addiction to alcohol that I had ever seen. His body would start shaking and he would begin getting sick if he went just a few hours without alcohol.
Eddie never once asked us for money. He actually gave money each week to our kids. He said that he wanted to give them a dollar every week so that one day when they were going to college, they would remember that Eddie White had helped them get there.
One time, we went by his corner, and he handed us a box full of children’s books. He had been at Goodwill and someone was giving these books away, so he got them for the kids. Anything that he could get his hands on that he thought we would like, he would keep for us until the next time we saw him. He helped us whenever he could, and we did the same for him. He absolutely loved spending time with our kids, and this quickly became the highlight of each week both for our kids and for Eddie.
Each week, we would pick Eddie up at 9:30 and head to church. Our church met at an Elementary school about ten minutes from our house. For the year and a half that we lived near Eddie, I don’t remember him ever missing a Sunday morning, except one Sunday when he was in jail.
He loved going to church and he loved our family. We had grown to love Eddie. He wasn’t just an outreach task to check off, he was our friend. We brought him back to our house each Sunday after church and he would eat lunch with us. He loved playing with our kids, and our kids loved playing with him. One of their best friends was a homeless alcoholic who lived under a bridge. We began our relationship with Eddie in an effort to try and somehow help him, but it felt like our family was getting much more in return than we were giving.
In December, our church announced that they were going to hold baptisms after the service in two weeks. After church, Eddie told me that he wanted to be baptized. I was excited to hear that, and I walked through with him what baptism was and what it meant. We talked about how it is an outward sign to show other people what we believe about God. It’s representative of our belief in Jesus and our desire to follow him. Eddie said that he understood this and wanted to show everyone his new faith. We set it up for him to be baptized in a couple weeks.
Baptizing Eddie was one of the highlights of my life. He was the last person to be baptized that day, and he looked rough from the night before. His body was dirty but you could tell that he was very happy to be there. He stepped into the pool, and we looked out to the crowd. The kids had come in from their Sunday school classes, and JD and Emily were sitting in the front row watching. I asked Eddie if he believed that Jesus was the Son of God and died for his sins and if he was publicly acknowledging his desire to follow Jesus for the rest of his life. He said, “Yes.” I dipped him under the water and pulled him back up. Everyone started cheering, and I hugged his soaking wet body.
I still remember how the water looked when Eddie stepped out of the baptism pool. It was dirty from briefly washing over Eddie’s body. I don’t think anyone else saw it, but I will never forget how the water was tainted. I stood there staring at it, and the world seemed to stop for a moment.
Eddie had publicly acknowledged that he was a broken man who was in need of a Savior, just the same as me. He wanted to be washed and cleansed by the blood of Jesus, and God had given our family the incredible privilege of being a part of his journey. I never would have thought that God would use us in this way; becoming so close to someone that society sees as dirty, but who God loves, and desires to make clean. Just like the dirt in the baptism pool, God longs to pull all people to Himself, offering us a chance to step out of the pool washed clean, leaving our dirt behind us.
This is just the beginning of the story about my friend, Eddie White.
To find out more about Eddie, subscribe to our blog: part two will be released soon!