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Homeless and Happy

I have been working with Watered Gardens here in Joplin for the past several years. Watered Gardens is a homeless shelter that provides a roof and food for people in need, which is not all that uncommon in most communities, but how these guys do it is. When people come to Watered Gardens they meet with one of the staff so that the staff can get to know each person and understand what it is they need help with. The theory here is feeding their belly is one thing. Feeding their soul is a lasting thing. Another difference is that you don’t get a hand out there, you get a hand up which means you work for anything that is given to you. (See my “PS” comment at the end of this blog on why that is sooooooo important!)

 Over a year ago, James Whitford who founded Watered Gardens with his amazing wife Marsha, asked me if I would consider being a mentor to one of the guys staying at the shelter. I reluctantly said that I would, because I had absolutely no idea what to do as a mentor. I met Charles Bowers a week later and we have been friends ever since. We usually just have lunch or breakfast and talk about life.

Every time I see Charles he has a HUGE smile on his face. Here is a guy that is living in a shelter with no job outside of all of the great work he does on behalf of Watered Gardens, and he is one of the happiest guys I know. Why? Because of his faith in God and the realization that his needs are simple, and that as long as he is connected to his faith, everything else will work out. He is grateful for his life every single day.

Meet Charles. One of my mentors.
Meet Charles. One of my mentors.

I was the emcee for the Watered Gardens fundraising event a few weeks ago where we had over 200 people in attendance. My wife and I were sitting with some friends, Lane and Abby Clevenger who just returned from a trip to Haiti doing some missionary work with their entire family. After the event we all went to dinner and they filled us in on how that trip went. They talked about how many of the people in Haiti were very happy despite not having much of anything material. Again, the reason was simple, these people were happy because they were so grateful for what they did have in their life.

The Incredible Clevenger Famiy
The Incredible Clevenger Famiy

My point today is to share these stories so that it might inspire you to hit the pause button as you read this. Take a moment to reflect on what you have, and be grateful. If there is some negative stuff going on, bring that to someone and begin to fix it. Just think about it. These people don’t own a home, car, or a closet full of clothes, but they have just about everything they want and need to be happy. What would you give to be that happy? You can be if you want to be.

When I am with Charles, I am pretty sure that I am the one that benefits the most from our time together. When I leave him I am always feeling lifted up and more grateful for the simple and important things in my life. He inspires me in many ways. Not just for what he has overcome, but also for what he is doing with the gifts he was given.

Do you get inspired in a similar way? What keeps you grounded and grateful? Share it with me in the comments section.

From my family to yours, I hope that you all have a terrific holiday and a very happy and grateful Thanksgiving!


The approach Watered Gardens takes to help people when they help themselves is important. Giving people stuff is the worst possible thing you can do IF they are able to help themselves. Making people dependent on you is NOT compassion and I have seen it first hand working at this shelter. This is not a political comment, just a little taste of reality after working with the people at Watered Gardens over the years. If you don’t believe me, go serve breakfast at your local shelter and see it for yourself first hand.

Something I came across from Robert Lupton’s Toxic Charity talks about “The Five Steps to Dependency”.

First you give somebody something and they are (1) appreciative. You do it again and there begins to be some (2) anticipation for it the next time. Then it grows into an (3) expectation that you continue to do it for them. After that, people get to where they are feeling (4) entitled to what you have been gracious enough to share with them. Finally and sadly, they become (5) dependent. This isn’t good for anyone. Especially the person in need!

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