The man in the box

Sunday, December 11, 2011

My granddaughter, Kori, is 6 months old. She is smart and beautiful, just like her grandmother. And Kori loves to stare at the fire burning in our electric fireplace.

Her older cousin, Charli, who will be 3 in January (also smart and beautiful like her grandmother), has always been fascinated by the fire in our fireplace too. In fact, Charli would sit down on the floor in front of that thing and just smile, and enjoy the heat from the blower that warms our living room.

I enjoy watching the flames dance and sway in that fireplace too. My recliner is positioned just across from it, and I get nice and toasty from its heat as I sit and read, pray or watch TV.

It is nice to be toasty on cold winter nights.

My wife has decorated the mantle with some Christmas greenery and candles. She put up a tree and has decorated it with beautiful ornaments, and we are starting to put packages and gift bags under our Christmas tree. By Christmas Eve there will be quite a collection of gifts under there.

I am sitting in my home office as I am typing this column, and I enjoy the electricity that warms and lights this room and powers my computer. I am blessed!

Yet, all week long I have been thinking of a man I met years ago in Memphis. He didn't have a fireplace or a recliner or a home office with a computer.

This man keeps coming to my mind. I don't know if he is even still alive, and he would never tell me his name. I don't know if he had a family to love him or if he ever enjoyed Christmas decorations during a happy Christmas season.

I just know him as the man who lived in a box down by the river.

I think about this man every once in a while throughout the year. I wonder what he is doing now. I wonder if he ever moved into a real house. And I pray for him, and for the many more like him.

I was with a group of Christian men from the ministry I was serving at when I met this man. We were going out on the streets of Memphis to invite street people and homeless men and women to come and join us for lunch and to receive blankets and clothing and basic needs.

We were walking along the banks of the Mississippi in downtown Memphis, talking to the people who were hanging out down there, and we spotted an old refrigerator box up under some bushes by a grove of trees.

We walked over and saw that there was someone in that box, huddled up with all his belongings.

I introduced myself and the men that I was with and we invited him to come to our ministry center for a warm meal. But, he said he couldn't leave his box or his things. He was afraid someone would come and take it from him.

That old cardboard box was his home, and all of his earthly possessions were in that box.

I told this man, who wouldn't tell me his name, about our ministry. I told him that we had a nice place where he could come and live. But he wasn't interested. He wouldn't leave his box.

We brought him some blankets and food the next day and we prayed with him, but he wouldn't come out of his box.

I am sitting in a nice, comfortable office chair as I sit here at my computer, and I am wondering about the man in the box.

Where is he today? Did he ever move on? Did he even make it through that winter?

I can't help but think about people in need at this time of the year.

I wrote a column recently about giving to those in need, and one of the people who read that column sent me a note. She wrote, "I am the pastor of Mullin Chapel AME Church. Because of your article in the paper our members decided instead of celebrating Christmas dinner within our church, that we would sponsor a Hot Christmas Dinner beginning at 11a.m. (Sunday, Dec. 18) for anyone who needs to eat. We will give away 10 Christmas Baskets that day. If you know of some family that needs help send them to us. We are located at 601 Ledbetter Rd. Our phone is 931-685-4547. Rev. Yvette M. Tisdale"

I have since seen that event announced in the Times-Gazette's Community Calendar. People are reaching out to help others. Maybe they can reach someone who lives in a box.

We need to move away from our warm and toasty fireplaces and reach out to others this season.

Doug Dezotell is the pastor of Mt. Lebanon UMC and Cannon UMC. He is a former staff writer for the Times-Gazette, and he is a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a friend to many. He can be contacted at

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: