There was more than the usual glow about Cheryl’s face. “We’re buying a home, we close next week!” Not an uncommon statement. But in this case, it also spoke to God’s wondrous workings.
I met Cheryl* years ago at an Oxford House in my neighborhood. She was working hard to get her life back together after a long history of drug use and losing her daughter to foster care. Her husband Steve* was fresh out of jail, and they were hoping to get back together once they achieved sobriety and found jobs. SLF is not a social-service agency that provides direct client services, but we do have a small fund to assist folks when they’re working to get back on track. Rental assistance, utilities, clothing (especially for work), medical bills, car repairs, etc. In this case, Cheryl needed some money for groceries and rent until her new job started the following week; SLF was honored to help.
She was hired by a successful local business that is called a “second-chance employer” in re-entry terminology. “Re-entry” is the process by which folks come back into society after periods of incarceration and/or addiction treatment. Marion County, led by Commissioner Janet Carlson, has a highly effective Re-Entry Initiative, which is showcased at a breakfast each fall at Salem Alliance’s Broadway Commons. There’s always a call for more second-chance employers—those that would adjust their hiring practices to open doors to candidates with criminal histories, addiction or mental-health issues. Job candidates like Cheryl and Steve. Both were ready, willing and determined to make good.
Over the years I have watched them grow in their jobs—they both work at the same place. I celebrated with them when they got an apartment together and their daughter returned home from foster care. I high-fived with them through promotions at work and positive milestones in their lives. It just seemed good and right when Cheryl bounded up to me with that “we’re-buying-a-home!” declaration.
Stuff (food, clothing) is good. Programs are good. And yet, over and over, we hear from folks whose lives have changed that the secret sauce is ‘people helping people.’  Not just once-in-awhile at special drives and events … but over time; in relationship. Maybe the phrase should be ‘people walking alongside people.’ Stuff and programs are good, but they are not the answer. Jesus put it this way: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” SLF was in position to do so with Cheryl and Steve. And guess what, they are now walking alongside others and helping them. Steve is even organizing a big ‘outreach experience’ for his co-workers this summer, which for some will be the first step into ‘walking alongside’ as a regular practice. SLF is helping set up the excursion. Can’t wait to see what God has in store this time…

What’s your Neighborhood?