Alfredo came to Florida a decade ago with the promise of a new job. Promises were broken. People let him down. He messed up. He ended up on the streets of Orlando and has struggled to get off. He has struggled to sober up. He has struggled to trust people. In midst of his struggles, though, Alfredo has learned to bless others. He has been able to reconnect with his faith and that faith is deepening. “God is REAL man,” Alfredo likes to say. I love it when he says that. It grows my faith. He often repeats it to make sure you feel the weight of a really real God – “God is REEEAAAALLL, man. Do you know what I’m sayin?”

The vision for Dignity Serves is seen most clearly in acts of kindness by the poor. Alfredo is a giving person, a thoughtful and caring servant of God and others. Many would not see him that way because of his current circumstances. They would be missing the full picture. The following story illustrates what I’m talking about. I asked Alfredo if I could share his story on the blog. "Absolutely," he said. "It's a testimony that God is real."

A mutual friend was having a birthday recently and Alfredo really wanted to get her a gift; just a small gift – a card, maybe a CD. Not a stretch for many of us but beyond his means right now. So he did what he does – he prayed. And prayed. For a week, every day, many times a day he asked God to provide the means for him to give his friend a gift. This seemed like a straightforward request and something God would provide. But he didn’t. So Alfredo kept praying.

Two days before her birthday, Alfredo was at Compassion Corner and felt compelled to share his testimony. Afterword, he experienced a peace. He knew that while God may not provide the means for the gift, he knew God had heard his prayers. He felt close to God and glad that he shared his testimony. After all God has kept him sober, safe, and surrounded by friends the last couple years in spite of still being on the streets. He was happy to give God praise for it. He learned through the week of prayer that his testimony is perhaps his greatest gift. He let go of the outcome and felt grateful that he would at least be able to wish her a happy birthday.

God had more in store. When he left Compassion Corner, he was walking down the street and a man approached him. Alfredo was suspicious – “What’s this guy want?” Apparently that guy wanted to give Alfredo some money. He reached out and handed Alfredo a $20 bill and said simply, “Bless you brother.” Alfredo was overjoyed. He hadn’t come across any cash for over a week and needed a few things himself but he decided to reserve half of the money to buy that birthday gift for his friend.

Alfredo and I went to the Christian bookstore the next day. It was such a joyous experience. I have never been with anyone in my life so eager to get a gift. We walked in the store and when someone came up and said, “Can I help you find something?” Alfredo instantly replied, “YES, you CAN.” He continued, “I am here to buy something really nice for someone who is very special to me. I have exactly ten dollars to spend.” The clerk helped and Alfredo searched for a long time. It was a bit of an adventure but in time he found the perfect card and the perfect CD. It was the most thoughtful search for a gift I’ve seen. Alfredo said, “Man, she is going to love this. God is REEALLL man. God is real.”

It truly is more blessed to give than to receive. Those in distress are often denied the blessing of giving but this is a tragic mistake. After 10 years on the street, Alfredo is a survivor and a servant. He gives most generously. What if you gave half of a week’s income to a friend? What if buying a gift was the highlight of your week? It was for Alfredo and I. Alfredo has taught me that while God sometimes changes circumstances, sometimes he doesn't. Nonetheless, God remains real and daily presents us with opportunities to serve. Dignity Serves.