By Marina Gruenhage

shibaki.jpgMr. Shibaki is a friendly man of 50 years, small in stature, with sparkling eyes and a winning smile. He is a happy man, because he has found that you can never be too poor to give and to help others in need.

When we first met Mr. Shibaki in winter of 1999 at a Tokyo park (Shinjuku) things were different. His outlook was gloomy, he felt discouraged and depressed. After twenty years as a member of the Japanese Self Defense Force, he felt there was now no place for him. His outward appearance mirrored his inner state: rundown and unkempt. He was one of close to 1000 homeless people who we had been feeding, clothing and counseling on a regular basis over the past several years.

Mr. Shibaki turned out to be one of many whose life changed as a result of the support and attention given to them. The realization that someone cared about him so touched Mr. Shibaki's heart that he sought for ways to express his gratitude. He discovered new meaning in life by helping us to take care of others. He began to prepare meals with us for the ever-growing number of homeless folks and then spent two days each week distributing food to them. He volunteered his services for other of our projects such as packing items for our humanitarian aid shipments to Cambodia. Meanwhile he held part time jobs occasionally, and of the little money he made he contributed most of it to charity.

Ten months ago Mr. Shibaki was able to find employment with a construction company. His sample of hard work and dependability won him the favor of the management and they provided much needed housing for him. At this point in time, you wouldn't recognize the well-dressed gentleman, complete with business cards and cell phone as the same fellow! Best of all, he has a heart full of thankfulness and outgoing concern for others. He especially cares deeply for the homeless and spends his spare time on volunteer projects aimed to improve their quality of life.

Marina Gruenhage was a Project Manager of Side by Side International, a FCF Project in Tokyo, Japan