My community recently lost a very humble man. Ron Elliott. His name was not a household name. Yet, many saw him downtown. Ron was homeless for many years, living in several shelters and most recently, a deplorable rental unit eight blocks from the state capitol. Ron had nothing, asked for nothing, but gave all he had. He was remembered on September 24, approximately two weeks after his death at a coffee shop downtown. Many homeless people gathered upstairs at this local establishment to share with Ron Elliott’s children their life and experiences with this special man. The people who gathered at this “wake” were mostly homeless. It was good to see them again. We embraced, shared a tear and a story or two. It was ironic that this wake was a block away from a place he made the most impact with people.
Ron was homeless and was residing at the local Gospel Mission when I first met him many years ago. While he was staying at the mission, he worked doing laundry, cleaning bathrooms and most importantly, helping people one on one. Ron never asked for a handout or special favors. All he asked from this world was shelter and a meal during his cancer treatment; he was willing and ready to work for that. And work he did. He did not need a program, he simply loved helping people. “If You Help, You Care” was one of Ron Elliott’s creeds.
Ron was stricken with terminal cancer a few years ago. When you saw him, you could see he was not well, but when he spoke his illness faded from view. You would never know that this man was dying. He was alive with the hope of life ever after with Christ and shared that hope with all he met. He was proud of his faith in the Lord and he wanted to share it with those who resided at the shelter and around town. On occasion Ron and I would walk around downtown. He told me of the mistakes he made during his life. Yet always amazed of the mercy God had for him during his life. His final days were very painful. He was bandaging his own open sores. His diet was anything he could hold down.
Homelessness, no matter how caused, should not conjure judgment. It should increase our mercy. Take a lesson from Ron; whatever your heart directs you to do when you see someone hurting, please follow your heart. CS Lewis wrote in his book The Four Loves that “friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of each of all the others.”
In a world of “me first,” it was refreshing and such a blessing to know a person like Ron who cared for others first; not by the directions of man or organizations, but by the Spirit of God. I am aware that there are and will be many “Ron’s” out there. I wish it were not so.