Bennie called me today, trying to reach Doah. Now, he rarely has trouble reaching Doah. Doah calls him every morning very early and says, "Good morning, Bennie, this is your wake-up call." While most people would be annoyed since Doah is not very good at telling time and often calls when he wakes up, which can be as early as 5:00 a.m., Bennie (shown in the photo above with Donnie, Doah, and Noelle) at the Mission Thanksgiving dinner) loves it and worries if he does not get his wake-up call.
Bennie has been Doah's special friend since the two met. When Doah was living in Santa Clara, Bennie would drive up sometimes to have lunch with him. He also introduced him to Phil, a local police officer, who kept an eye on Doah and even took him to his house for Thanksgiving one year. Bennie has taken Doah fishing and camping, and Doah often hangs out at the Mission gift shop where Bennie works. After Doah's rape, Bennie took Doah under his wing, and for a few hours every day, Doah would spend time at the gift shop with Bennie. It did much to help Doah recover.
In addition to helping Doah, Bennie helps a whole host of people and even creatures of nature. A Secular Franciscan, Bennie takes very seriously St. Francis's commitment to animals and to poor people. With his brother, he has undertaken a project to clean up a stream in a nearby city so that the salmon, which had nearly disappeared, can come home to spawn. How did he do it? By enlisting the help of the homeless people living along the banks of the river. In return, he provided clothing, toiletries, and warm blankets to those people, no questions asked as to why they chose to live outdoors rather than indoors. (Some of them have alcohol and drug dependencies; some have other reasons for staying outside while shelters are, in general, available.)
Bennie asks no questions because he has been where these people are now. For many years, Bennie was known as a local drunkard. He is the first to admit the depths to which his life sank. However, thanks to the help of God and a decision to allow God to help, using the 12 Steps program, Bennie pulled himself out of that morass and commits his free time to helping others also climb back up to the dry heights of a normal life (however one might define normal).
Bennie is not wealthy. He makes a living by piecing together income from two different jobs. Although sometimes he does not have all that one might consider necessary even to "get by," he never complains, and whatever he has, he shares. Maybe because of this level of generosity and humility, Bennie has a special relationship with God. He assumes that his prayers will be answered, and they always are. He has shared with me understandings of what God might want in one or another spiritually significant situations. When I listen, often magic happens. Many people say the same thing.
How lucky we are to have Bennie as a member of our extended family! Or, just perhaps it is not luck but an intentional blessing.