Tell Me More About What Dry Bones Does
I was 8 when I first got sent to the principal’s office. I bit my best friend on the hand in a fight. I know, I know – awful fighting skills. My mom picked me up from school and I got a talking-to. She was angry and disappointed but eventually expressed her unconditional love to me.
I had to choose between jazz band and basketball in high school. My parents helped me think through the decision, but promised to support either choice. I chose jazz band and they came to every performance.
It was only a month after receiving my driver’s license at 16 that I got my first speeding ticket. My dad helped me figure out how I would pay the fine and talked to me about driving more safely. He even taught me the “5-over rule.”
I remember being 17 and thinking about going to college. Where would I go? How would I pay for it? What would I study? What’s a FAFSA? My parents were there to help me fill out all the forms, celebrate my acceptance letter, apply for scholarships, and even helped me pack up for the dorm.
I was 23 years old when I decided to propose to my girlfriend. It was obviously the biggest decision I had ever made in my life. I was young, in love, and overflowing with excitement. Sometimes we think we know and sometimes we absolutely know. I couldn’t see 15 years into the future, but I sure could see today! I just somehow knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Nikki Schweikhard.
I went over to my dad’s office for a very important visit. I needed advice. I needed ideas on how to afford a modest ring. Of course I would go to his office to share this news and seek his wisdom. He joined in my excitement while calmly infusing his wisdom.
My parents have just always been there for me – every day of my life. I simply cannot imagine what my life would be like without my supportive friends and family. (I fully realize that some of you reading this don’t relate.)
In a meeting the other day, the person across the table said, “I know about meals and survival gear and showers and laundry, but tell me more about what Dry Bones does.”
I began answering the question when her phone started dinging. Text after text kept coming in. She would glance over, resist for a moment, but would eventually grab the phone and slyly respond as I continued to speak.
Finally, her phone rang and she said, “I’m so sorry. I just have to answer this.” She picked up her phone and walked away for some privacy. She came back and said something to the effect of, “Even at 33, my son still needs me.” She shared a little bit about what was going on. Nothing huge – just her son needing some life advice and loving support. And she was totally there for him. Lucky son.
Pointing at her, I said, “It’s no problem. I get it. And that is exactly what we do here at Dry Bones. On most days, it’s not much different than you answering your phone for your son. That’s part of what loving supportive family does. And even more, your son knows to call you because he knows you will unquestionably see the best in him. It’s where you’ll start every time you answer the phone. He knows that you are his biggest champion. He trusts your love for him. I hope that this is how our friends in the Dry Bones community feel too.”
What did this past week look like? What did I do for my Dry Bones friends and family? Nothing special, really.
- I answered the phone when one friend called – weeping because a family member had just been placed in hospice. I just listened. And prayed.
- I celebrated a birthday on Wednesday and helped facilitate a meeting to get her into safe and sober housing. That night, she was in a motel and will soon be in a sober home.
- I shared a home cooked meal with a bunch of my friends on Thursday that were really hungry. I didn’t cook it. I just shared it.
- I encouraged another friend in filling out his job applications for work at a grocery store, a 7-11, and the zoo. (Guess which job he most wants?)
- We celebrated Hanz’s graduation from Purple Door Coffee – a huge milestone! One year of consistency at work and in training. Our entire staff offered words of affirmation, ate pizza and cake, and prayed with him.
- I talked with another friend about her relationship struggles with her brother. Three kids from this one family have been on the streets of Denver through the years. She’s stable and doing really well. Her brother is still struggling and she needed to share her sadness, frustration, and worry. Her sentiment was, “I love him! How do I keep loving him?”
- Another friend needed a new sleeping bag as his had been taken by someone. I had one to share.
- I helped connect another friend with an appointment with our therapists. She was ready to receive some help beyond my abilities. This took a simple email introduction and her first appointment was set.
- I talked on the phone with another young man who was just needing a friend. We talked for an hour about, well, I don’t really remember – the Super Bowl maybe? I do remember how the call ended. He said, “You’ll never know how much I value our friendship.” And, “Matt, I want you to know that I pray for you every day.”
And this list could go on and on.
Nothing on this list is rocket science. It’s all fairly simple. It’s support. It’s practicing presence and showing up. It’s being someone’s champion and seeing the best in them. It’s friendship. It’s family.
In our staff meeting this morning, Robbie asked our team to fill in this blank, “Dry Bones is a ministry of ____________.”
Different staff members quickly began responding with words such as: presence, community, inclusion, love, relationship, compassion, empathy, reconciliation, relentless support, human connection, spirituality, faith, and belonging.
As the story goes, Nikki and I did get married. We just celebrated 19 years! I finally paid off my college loans a few years back. I have only gotten one more speeding ticket since I was 16. I quit the trombone in college. And the best news? I quit biting my friends after the 2nd grade!
Thank you mom and dad for your relentless support; for your presence, inclusion, love, relationship, compassion, empathy, deep connection, spirituality and faith, and for always welcoming me home where I belong.
Nikki and I now have three sons. Being a parent, as many of you know, is maybe the most challenging thing one can ever do. It’s hard work! And I’m out of my league. I often don’t know what to say when my little boys ask me for help or advice.
On the other hand, it’s easy! it’s fun. It’s effortless. It’s natural. Sometimes all you need to do is answer the phone when it rings. Healthy familial relationship is the most rewarding, simple, and fluent love you may ever receive or share.
I feel this familial effortless love at Dry Bones from and among my friends that happen to be houseless. This is foundational to what we do.
This week, do a simple thing or two. First of all, fill in the blank, “My life is a ministry of ________.” Then, intentionally do that.
Take your daughter out for ice cream. Call that friend or coworker you know is lonely and just say, “How ya doing?” Look for the opportunity to mourn or celebrate or just be mutually confused alongside someone that you love. Send a handwritten card. Become present with someone.
And of course, teach those you love not to bite!