My Popeye People

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Chapter two in the book Holy Discontent is dedicated to “Popeye People”, you know those folks who reached the stage of frustration when they had to do something to correct a bad situation.  They acted to make things better. 

Hybels cites some “heavy hitters”, people we all know.   Martin Luther King gets several pages.  He also singles out Mother Teresa.  Not everyone knows Dr. Bob Pierce but his founding of World Vision has touched the lives of many people in need, primarily meeting the needs of people who are starving around the world.  Another “heavy hitter.”

These examples bring me to think about “popeye people” that I know.   I have known a few.  They have lived right here in my community.*

This woman began to take on large projects early in her life.   When she saw a need she tackled it.  Here are a couple of examples from her lifetime of work.  Thirty-five years ago, she felt there was a need to help people who had family members who were in the last stages of life, the terminally ill.  This is a confusing time and most of us are very ill-equipped to care for our loved ones.  Seeing a need, she reached out [she called it “getting brave”] and contacted a nationally known expert on death and dying and asked him to come to our community.   She got donors to fund his trip and fee and got an interested audience together for his message.  From her efforts, our community has a very active hospice movement.  Recently she put her efforts behind a half-way house for incarcerated women.  Again promoting, helping with funding and selling the need for this type of facility.  Today there is demonstrated evidence of the good this facility is doing.  It has recently moved to another location, a bigger building so more women can be served.  Her age is not slowing her down.  Where she sees a need, she is still tackling it.

I was in a Bible study/men’s group about twenty-five years ago with a man who was very concerned with certain pockets of poverty in our community.   He was very familiar with certain neighborhoods that were crime-ridden and wanted to do something about them.   I remember spending weekly sessions with him; we talked about a lot of things but he kept his focus on what needed to be done to make poor neighborhoods better.  One day he announced he would be moving to an apartment in the poorest neighborhood in town.  He did that.  He started walking around the neighborhood trying to get to know people.   He was well-known as a bike rider, going up and down the down-trodden streets waving to people.  Soon he got enough people to buy into the idea that a house needed to be occupied in the neighborhood that would bring individuals, couples, and families together, centers of faith where resources could be brought to underprivileged neighborhoods.  Today our community has six “Challenge Houses” where people can gather to get education, employment information and improve their life skills.  All from one man’s commitment to make poor neighborhoods better.

Last is a man who worked for God tirelessly.  He did not have the notoriety that the above two people have but I knew of his work because he was a close friend.   He never bragged about what he was doing; he just went about doing it.  He was excellent with his hands, by that I mean he could build anything or fix anything.  At church he was a tireless volunteer, heading up project after project to cut down on maintenance costs.  He volunteered in the community in so many capacities that I cannot even begin to list all his efforts.  I will mention my most meaningful contact with him, as a volunteer in the Emmaus Community.  He was such a humble man, very self-effacing.  He knew he had to speak at an Emmaus Walk and felt ill-prepared to do a good job.  When he was in his sixties, he joined a speech class full of twenty somethings where I tried to teach him the basics of speaking in public.   He toughed it out and make a wonderful speech on the Emmaus Walk.   I know because I was a pilgrim on that walk.   I had no idea that he was going to be one of my speakers.   He was constantly trying to get me to serve with him in a prison ministry.   I was so uncomfortable doing that so I kept coming up with lame excuses about why I could not go.  He never made me feel bad.  The invitation was open.  He is no longer with us but his tireless service lives on in the lives of those he touched. 

He, like the “getting brave” woman above and the bike-riding challenge house founder are sterling examples of people who saw a need and met it.   He was not as well-known as the other two but in my mind, that is probably the way he wanted it.   I remember talking to him about his service and he just would not take credit.   Naïve as I was, I could not understand why he deflected compliments.   He was not working for himself; he was working for God.

That is something that all “popeye people” have in common.  They don’t worry about the credit.  They know where their strength comes from to do what they do.  It doesn’t come from man.

“I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”  Philippians 4:13

*I prefer for these three people to be anonymous….

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