When my wife and I were living In Vancouver, BC (Canada), we decided we could not just talk about radical hospitality but needed to live it.
We had befriended a homeless person and his pet pigeon and had made a point to make him part of our life.
We had him over for dinner, hung out with him, and invited him to join us at any events that happened on our street. We even helped him sign up for Facebook as a way to reconnect with lost friends and family.
That kind of hospitality can be hard on a person. A genuine friendship can be tested by the presence of drugs or behavior that lands your friend in jail for, let’s say, breaking into an animal shelter to rescue a pet pigeon.
Sadly, we lost contact with our friend when work took us from Canada to the States. The reality of being homeless is something that most of us can imagine or help remedy.
But what we did is nothing compared to what Cindy and Pierre Germain in Calgary, Alberta, did. What they did was amazing.
They opened their home to man with drug, booze, and legal issues. At age 32, Kevin Swayzie had been living on the streets since he was 20 years old.
Suffering from urea cycle disorder, a condition associated with brain damage and learning disabilities, Kevin was a man with developmental disabilities who was stuck drinking his life away.
Dive bars, pot, meth and other narcotics ate up most of his government check. He found living on the street too hard until he met an outreach worker with Alberta Health Services.
That worker got him into a program that gets people with developmental disabilities into homes. That is how he found himself with the Germain family.
It has not been an easy road. Now two years sober, it was early into his time with the Germain family when he vanished for several days before showing back up drunk and stoned.
It was a rock-bottom moment for Kevin. It was, as he said, a “wake up call.” The Germain family got him help for his warrants and treatment for his addictions.
Kevin has a job now as a ticket-taker at a movie theater. The family has also taken vacations together to Disney World and have more trips planned.
The Germain family made it clear: they are not Kevin’s parents, but they are family.
“Like I say to Kevin, ‘I’m not your mom, I feel like I’m your big sister, so I’m here to support you in what you need but you still are the one who is making decisions,” Cindy Germain says.
As we leave Christmas for the new year, I would encourage all who read this to find their way to practice radical hospitality. You might just save a life.
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