With his sagging, tanned face, stick-thin frame, and tired eyes, David fits right in with the homeless and down-on-their luck of the Twin Cities. His dusty baseball cap and shabby denim jacket are paltry protection against the impending harshness of Minnesota winter. David finds warmth, food, and conversation every Friday at the Marie Sandvik Center on East Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis. The Marie Sandvik is a Christian-based non-profit that provides for the material needs of the poor living in inner city Minneapolis. But people don’t just come here for the food; they need to talk.
David comes right up to you. He’s very trusting and just wants someone to hear his story. At first, it’s surprising to hear him talk about his father so much. David appears to be in his early fifties, and people that age tend to talk more about their spouses or kids than their parents.
David’s story is not all the unusual—family discord has caused him to be a sort of outcast. He has no one to hear him out and support him. He doesn’t mention a job, but he does say he stays with his father often. David’s father never showed him or his siblings love. A former military man, his father treated his family as if they were his soldiers, causing his wife to leave him. David’s brother, sister, and father continue to fight and are alienated from each other. David tries to play the mediator and help his father and siblings reconcile. He gets frustrated with his unsuccessful attempts.
The thing that might surprise you about David is his lack of bitterness toward his father. After fifty-some years of verbal abuse and broken trust, David is still helping out his dad.
With tears in his eyes, he tells the story of the time he ended up in the hospital after he crashed his moped. He didn’t know whom to call, but his dad showed up without warning. “He told me ‘I’m glad you’re okay’” said David. “That’s when I knew that he loved me.”
From what you can tell, that one instance is the only time that David’s father has shown his son any affection. But that is enough for David. He goes to help his dad out every week. Cleaning the house, running errands, getting medication—David is his father’s primary caretaker. And David’s father is just as cantankerous as ever. “He’s always criticizing what I do, telling me I’m not good enough,” says David. You can see the pain in his eyes when he says this, but he doesn’t consider leaving his father. He remains a faithful, respectful son. David is one of the most forgiving people you’ll ever meet.
As David finishes his third plate of food, you look up and realize that all the other people who came for food and fellowship have already left. The staff of the Marie Sandvik Center is cleaning up. It’s just you and David, sitting and talking. David begins to pack up his shabby, red backpack. He thanks you for the food and the chat. Then he starts talking again, and you listen until the staff member tells David that the center is closing, and he needs to leave. Finally, David says good-bye for the last time. “Thank you,” he says.
No David. Thank you for giving a picture of patience against all odds. Thank you for showing what raw, gritty, authentic love looks like.