Welcome to Day 6 of HopeSpeaks: 30 Stories in 30 Days. Learn more about the HopeSpeaks campaign and submit your story here!
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By Chris Chowdhury:
Almost three years ago, I saw Frank for the first time at Real Cup Cafe. Frank looked rough, like he had been living on the streets. His countenance was gruff and unmovable. Among the other visitors — children, regulars, and volunteers — Frank wasn’t my immediate choice for conversation that morning. Nevertheless, he was new, and I thought I should at least try to talk to him. So, I grabbed a coffee and sat down right in front of him.
At first, the silence was awkward. Clearly, Frank hadn’t expected anyone to sit down like that. But eventually he spoke. I asked him simple, “safe” questions about where he grew up and what he did for a living. And, to be honest, I don’t really remember all the answers he gave, but as the weeks went on, he kept returning and our awkward chats became a regular meeting. And a lot less awkward.
More and more, Frank opened up and shared his story, and I shared my own, too. What really moved things forward were our post-service conversations (Real Cup is the adjoining cafe to Real Church). Some weeks the sermon hit Frank hard, and he couldn’t help but tell me how it was making him think and want to change his life.
Another thing that changed each week was Frank’s appearance. Not that what you wear defines who you are, but for Frank, changing appearance meant changing his lifestyle too. One time he even showed up for a service in a suit and wearing glasses, which helped earn him the nickname “The Professor.” He was a long way removed from the once beligerant and stubborn man I met at first.
Now, Frank is a regular attender, holds down a job, and shares his faith with people on the street just as down-trodden as he once was. He smiles, and talks freely with people, and knows that his life matters. Frank is a symbol of hope to others — an insider who shares his hope with everyone he meets. Frank found hope – and the city finds hope in people like Frank.
Photo Credit: Cris Rocha