For as long as I can remember, there has been a group of middle aged men that occupy the same corner table at the Samaritan Center for breakfast each morning. They argue ferociously about the NBA, laugh loudly and sip on their coffee for almost an hour, before they rise and go about their day. One of their brethren is Andy, who is a fit sixty-something, slightly bowlegged, and has one of the most genuine, wide smiles that I know. He almost holds court over the younger guys; everyone is transfixed by his bark of a laugh and his slow, singing voice. Confident and welcoming, Andy always has a joke or a kind word at the ready for anyone. But when he gets to know someone, he may open up and spare a story of his days in the service or his son’s football glory days at a local high school.

As we bid our farewells in the morning and he unlocks his beloved bike, Andy always talks of his plans for the day: going to babysit his grandkids, doctors’ appointments, errands usually filled his time. It was incredible how busy and active he made himself – always on the run. Until one day, he casually mentioned he was going to look at apartments.

The story then unraveled that this man who could make anyone feel at home, was miserable in his own. Andy hated his apartment; he wouldn’t even talk about the details- he was so embarrassed of the conditions. I could gather that it was not taken care of by his landlord and his neighbors were attracting some trouble. For the first time since I had known him, Andy looked truly miserable. We began our work to help him find a new home.

 Most of his summer was spent riding his bike all over town meeting with landlords. When her finally signed a lease for a Northside apartment, one he had often admired as a younger man, he was giddy with excitement.

We discovered that Andy wouldn’t be able to take any of his furniture with him to his new home, as he was afraid to bring along the vermin from the infested house as well. “I’ll bring my pots,” he said, “and a few bags of clothes.”

We were anxious to help, but as we waited on his move-in day, Andy would just shake his head, “No, no, I’m alright,” unwilling to put us out. Finally, he reluctantly admitted, “Maybe I could use a few things, maybe some help finding a bed?”

Our incredible Samaritan Center Family responded overwhelmingly. A wonderful bed came from Camillus, a sofa and chair from the Southside, odds and ends came together to slowly build our incredible friend a home.

When we entered the small one bedroom apartment for the first of the deliveries, a buffed pair of dress shoes sat alone in the closet as Andy’s only possession in the apartment. They stood alone, a testament to Andy’s strength and sense of pride – but would soon be surrounded by other possessions, which served a symbol of the love and support of others.

This, I realize, is how we build community. We build something together with each cup of coffee, every smile exchanged and each moment that we are able to share a part of the journey. Brick by brick, we fill spaces that were once empty, provide comfort and a place to rest for the weary and reassure one another that we do not have to endure hardships alone.

And, perspiring in the humid hallway, Andy turned to say, “Now this is lookin’ more like home.”