Sure hope I don’t sound like a broken record, but one of the best things about my job is meeting so many wonderful people in our community.
I recently received a kind and interesting e-mail from my new friend, Charlie Becker. We e-mailed back and forth a few times before I suggested he and his wife, Nancy, meet me for coffee.
The three of us hit it off right away. Because Charlie and I share the quality of being so loquacious, i.e. big talkers, poor Nancy hardly got a word in edgewise.
First of all, at 81 years young, Charlie has more energy than most of my friends combined. A true conversationalist, he told me story after story from his fascinating life.
A native of Atlanta, he shared tales from his childhood there and how different things were then. From his days at Georgia Tech, to his years at Martin Marietta, Charlie’s career included working, teaching at numerous colleges and a tremendous amount of volunteering.
In addition, Charlie is a Korean War veteran, like my father was, so I also enjoyed hearing some of his many service stories.
When I thought Charlie had done just about everything, he shared with me one of his main passions — serving on the board of directors of The Good Samaritan Health Clinic.
He said he first met the Atlanta clinic’s founder, Bill Warren, years earlier at church. A successful pediatrician, Warren left his private practice in Sandy Springs in 1995 to fulfill something he felt called to do. He wanted help the neediest in Atlanta — the working poor and homeless.
Charlie’s story was so intriguing, he suggested we take a field trip there. So a few days later, with Nancy driving, the three of us headed to an area few would dare go.
As we drove down Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway in Atlanta, I was struck by this different world. Just 30 minutes from million-dollar homes and fancy boutiques was utter poverty.
I felt like I was in a third-world country. Boarded-up buildings appeared to have abandoned for years. Graffiti was everywhere.
Homeless people pushed old grocery carts containing their worldly possessions in the 100-degree heat.
There were only a few gas stations, dirty and run down, complete with bars on their windows. No strip malls, shiny grocery stores or restaurants in sight. The people we saw looked sad, tired and broken.
And then — as if a light had shown down from above — was The Good Samaritan Health Clinic, a beacon of hope amid such despair.
Entering the clinic, I quickly sensed how friendly, professional and happy the staff seemed. Have you been in a doctor’s office or hospital where the doctors and nurses didn’t seem all that happy? Not so here.
I loved that there were encouraging biblical verses everywhere, and even a prayer room for those who preferred some privacy.
The kiosk for prayer requests was front and center. How refreshing to be in a medical facility that made no apology for religious affiliation.
The building was spacious and inviting. The waiting room was filled with children and adults, all needing care.
Like his attentive staff, Warren is clearly fulfilling a calling and loves what he does. He took time out of his busy day to take us on a tour.
Warren said the center opened in 1999 and sees more than 20,000 patients a year. Its staff has grown from just a few to about 30. Some doctors volunteer to serve, but Warren said they can always use more help.
It‘s inspirational when you meet people who follow their calling and are passionate about what they do.
As we left that downtrodden part of the city I love so much, I said a prayer for those who were suffering, as well as for those who use their blessings to bless others.
Adlen Robinson is author of "Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home." E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.