Pastor Robert Raines writes about a time when a group of narcotics detectives raided a loft apartment in a run-down section of New York on word that the apartment, much less the building, was filled with drug activity and prostitution.*
In the loft, they found over a dozen men huddled around trying to get warm, some sleeping on old, torn couches, yet others sprawled out on the floor likely recovering from a night of boozing and roaming the streets below. Dimly visible from the ceiling hung dusty, reflective ornaments bearing witness to the fact that the loft was once a dance studio in a long-lost, happier day.
The detectives arrested six men who had drugs on their person. They also arrested the host, a small, unassuming man, for harboring drug addicts in his apartment.
At police headquarters, things turned interesting as the host told his story. He was a wealthy man, he argued, and did not know that it was a crime to clothe and feed homeless men. His door, he said, was open to all, even the narcotic addicts who tended to gather in that part of town.
The police corroborated the story. The man, John Sargent Cram, was a Princeton-educated millionaire who found it a bit of a nuisance to do charity work through the top-heavy organizations in his part of town. He chose instead to simply purchase the loft and spend time with the homeless on their terms. He counseled some, and he saved more than one–but he felt called simply to be sure that the men he befriended had somewhere to lay their head and get a decent night’s rest.
Later, when Cram went before a judge, witnesses came out of the neighborhood to testify. The smell in the courtroom was unmistakable that this was no ordinary crowd. Mr. Cram’s altruism was so well-known, the Spanish population knew Cram as “Papa Dio,” or “Father God.” It’s a high title, probably a bit sacrilegious if you ask me, but it gets at something. It tells us something of the man, and of God. It tells us that when we live according to God’s love, we do so more deeply, minister more effectively, and live life more passionately.
Paul was right: Love hopes all things, and love never ends.
*Source: Robert Raines, Creative Brooding (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1966), p. 30-31.