Voice of the Nations – Listen to your Buttons

by Karyn Alexander
October 14, 2010

 Remember Robert? I wrote about Robert in an article entitled, “What will be in your box?” Robert was a homeless man who came to Winfield House to heal. During his stay, we had tremendous success and some failures as well.

Robert was an alcoholic and drug abuser who had lived a life of self-abuse stemming from unresolved grief. Robert went from shelter to shelter looking for help, but wound up living under a bridge in Cincinnati for most of his adult life.

We took Robert in and believed we could give him help and hope. Robert turned out to be a good man who tried very hard, but was often drawn back to the “tracks.” There were no bridges in Augusta, so our small homeless community lived on the railroad tracks and took shelter in a small building hidden in the brush.

Within months of Robert’s stay, he began his road to sobriety. Some of the other homeless men saw his improvement, so asked if they, too, could come to Winfield House. I agreed that another younger man, Frank, could stay as well. Both helped with the food pantry at Winfield, stacking cans, packing boxes and gaining self esteem.

Neither was a good candidate for supervising the children’s programs, but Robert asked if he could be involved. I allowed him to observe the kids and they welcomed him into the fold. Frank was not really interested, so he remained at the house during the afternoon programs. We screened the children’s workers and were cautious to not expose the kids to lifestyles we did not approve. Robert was working hard at his sobriety, so I allowed some interaction. It was good for Robert, who had lost his children, and it was good for our children, many of whom had no father.

One afternoon, we were putting the kids into their choir robes, readying them for a concert they would perform that same week. The concert was included in our city’s Lenten service, where community members came for lunch and inspiration. The kids were singing several songs, one of which was El-Shadaii (meaning, God Almighty).

During the choir practice, I heard some loud voices outside the chapel.
Robert and Frank were singing our songs too, only in a very drunken Irish ballad style. They swaggered down the sidewalk toward the chapel to tell me they were ready for choir practice. All I could think of was, “Now? You had to get drunk now!”

Frank saw my angered face and fled to the house. Robert just laughed and told me I needed to “relax and live a little.”  I thought about what he said, and agreed, but not in the same way he thought. I was thinking I needed a vacation or a different job that didn’t include smart-mouth drunks! I scolded Robert and aimed him toward the house. I asked him to get something to eat and take a shower. He looked like a maniac who had just walked out of the woods. Robert agreed and followed my instruction.

I went back to the chapel and practiced with the kids. They sounded beautiful and in the end, brought the entire community to tears with the sentiment and sweetness of their songs.

During that same week, a man came to Winfield House for food. He said he was from out-of-state and relocating in Augusta. As we talked, I sensed something was wrong. I can’t explain it, but something “in the air” was not right. He said he was training for ministry and was in need of food for his family. I questioned him about where he went to school and he stated a well-known theological school.

Something still felt wrong. I asked if he had a family. He said he had a wife and one child. Wondering where they were, I asked. He pointed and waved to his car outside the window. I motioned to them to come inside. I wanted to get a full picture of this man.
A tall thin woman and a scraggly looking child appeared. They seemed to be afraid and said absolutely nothing. The woman was pregnant, maybe five or six months.  I thought I’d better pack a nice-size food box. I called for Robert and asked if he would help with this task. Sober now, he packed and carried the box to their car.

As I continued to talk with this man, he said he was a carpenter and needed a carpenter’s belt and some tools. He wondered if we had any.  Funny thing, we just happened to have several of those. We had a boys’ program at the time called, “Build a Life,” where community boys came for carpentry and life lessons. I told him I could arrange for the tool belt and tools. I think he was surprised.

Something was still not jiving with this guy’s explanation of his life situation. I felt he wasn’t telling the truth about being in ministry and I doubted he was a carpenter. The energy in the room when he spoke was just edgy enough to make me believe that nothing he said was true. The woman with him did not wear a wedding band and she seemed scared to death of him. He wasn’t a large man; in fact, he was probably not much bigger than I am, but I sensed danger with him.

I had been teaching the kids at Winfield to “listen to their buttons,” meaning, listen to your gut feeling on every situation. I had written a small book to remind them what their buttons were. I told them we all have three buttons. I taught that Button Number One was our danger button. When you feel afraid, and things seem dangerous, they probably are.

Our Second Button is our conscience button. When we sense something wrong, we are probably correct; button Two knows right from wrong. Thirdly, we have a God button, where we can hear God’s voice directing us with issues in our lives.  We are wired with an innate sense to hear all three buttons. My “Buttons,” all three of them, were going off. I felt danger around this man, I felt he was not telling the truth and I felt God saying, stay away!

After Robert’s drunken stunt, I asked him if he would help me with the man.    I had already promised to help the stranger with tools, and told him he would have to come back tomorrow to retrieve the rest of what I promised. The tools were not at the Winfield House, and I would need to bring them from another location.

As the man and his “wife” left, I told Robert and Frank that I wanted them right next to me when he returned the next day. Both men laughed and said, “Karyn, you are being ridiculous; that guy is not dangerous.”

I disagreed and asked the men in a serious way if they would please stand, one on each side of me, when he returned. They rolled their eyes, but jokingly agreed to be my body guards.

I know what you are thinking. I am asking two drunken guys to protect me. Yes, it was true, but they were all I had.

The next day the man came back for the tools. I reluctantly and quickly gave him the tools. Robert and Frank stood next to me, but nothing strange happened. Then the man was on his way.

Robert and Frank ridiculed me for being a sissy and making more of the situation than necessary. I told them nothing happened because I had protection that day. They rolled their eyes and said, “Whatever!”

That same night, I went home, cooked dinner and turned on the news. Guess who was on the National News? Yes, our very own friend, Mr. carpenter- minister. He was apprehended in a nearby town and had been on the F.B.I. MOST WANTED list posted by the Federal Government.

My gut feelings were correct. I had listened to my buttons and they were correct.
I went back to Winfield House the next day and brought the newspaper, with our “friend’s” picture plastered all over the front page. Finding a man on the F.B.I. Most-Wanted list in our neck of the woods is a big deal, so it was front page news.

I showed the paper to Robert and Frank, with of course, my best “I told you so” look.
They were shocked and couldn’t believe what they were seeing. Robert said, “Karyn, you are connected! We will always listen to what you say from now on.”

I was glad for that, but the lesson for all of us is this, “Listen to YOUR buttons.” Don’t wait for someone else to size up a situation, use your gut, intuition and inner voice to discern what is right or wrong or dangerous. Listen to God’s voice for direction to ensure your success.

Let’s all practice listening to our buttons!


Karyn Alexander
Executive Director, Winfield House (windfieldhouse.org)

Winfield House brings the good news of Jesus in a practical way, giving hope to God’s people.

Voice of the Nations: Rev. 5:9 “With your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe, people, language and nation.”
Send questions or comments to: KarynBAlexander@aol.com


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