by Laura Luttrell
Moses Cook work as Security for the Gathering, but he was a guest first.
“I get up every morning whether I want to or not and I go down to the Gathering. I want to be there for anyone who needs me. There is no greater joy than to see them go in and come out and they're clean and they're doing well. They're happy. I don't judge them because to me everyone is going to start the race but everyone's not going to finish at the same time."
Moses Cook came to Milwaukee when he was 17. After his first daughter was born, he knew he was going to stick around. In some ways, he was happy with his life: he had a job making good money and he had two daughters, but he was also heavy into drugs and alcohol, causing major difficulties throughout his life. He lived this way for 20 years, until a near death experience caused him to reassess his life. He reflected about his friends who had died. He thought about how his family didn’t like being around him. He wanted out.
He quit his job and checked himself into the Rescue Mission shelter. He refused to let himself even step outside for a full 30 days. Moses didn’t want to go into a treatment center because “they keep you from the temptation” and he wanted to know he could keep himself from it. He experienced terrible withdrawal, but he made it through. He was on a new path.
Afterward, Moses returned to eating breakfasts and volunteering at the Gathering breakfast meal program. It was a place he found hope. Seeing his dedication, the Gathering offered him a job working security. Ten years have passed and Moses believes it is exactly where he needs to be. He views his role as much more than keeping everyone well-behaved; he understands the guests and wants to support them.
When Moses was still using, there was a woman from the Gathering, “Mama Jo,” who never gave up on him, no matter how badly he messed up. She told him to “dust yourself off and start again.” He listened.
Now Moses has taken up her position. He does what he can to be a bright light in the lives he touches: “A word of encouragement to make them laugh... whatever it takes to put them in a happy spirit – because they may not get that any place else… if I can bring a little joy to their life, that little spark of joy may sustain them through the day and they have a good day.”
One day a guest came to Moses and gave him $400 and asked him to hold it so he wouldn’t be tempted to spend it on drugs. The guest said “I’m goin’ in [to drug rehab]. If you deem it necessary for my daughter or anyone to know where I am, you can tell them.” Moses recalled, “About nine months later, he came back, clean and engaged to be married. He was surprised I still had the money. I remember a day when a guy wouldn’t give me fifteen cents to hold for him. It made me feel so good this guy entrusted me, [with] what he was doing, and his money. That took me a long way... That was the biggest success for me.”
Moses is grateful for his life now. “Once you clean up, caring about people comes back,” he says. He has a good relationship with his family now. Moses said, “I will never lose my peace. I’m not going backward. It’s been over 15 years.” He wants to help others get to this point too. “If I got it, I give it because it was always given to me... You pass it on to the next that need it...If I can help one person a day, I’m good.” The way he sees it, “The meal is just a small part of the Gathering. It’s hope... worthiness... appreciation of the people. The Gathering never gave up on me… and here I am.”