By Donna Olendorf
Bill Hankins was already retired by the time I met him. Maybe that’s why he seemed to have all the time in the world, to never be rushed or harried, and to always be fully present in the moment. But, somehow, I don’t think it was retirement that calmed Bill down. I suspect he was a quiet powerhouse all his life – the guy you go to when you need someone to listen and not to judge.
In recent years, Bill had embraced Jubilee House as his passion. The respect and concern he brought to the homeless population enriched them both. Bill passed away on May 23 after a brief hospital stay. At 81, he had lived a full life, but the people of Grace and the patrons at Jubilee House keenly feel the void left by his absence.
That’s because Bill’s love for people was the closest thing to the good news of Christ that most of us will ever experience. Bill’s love for humankind was sacred.
Where others saw drunkenness, Bill saw pain that men sought to drown out with drinking. Where police saw a public nuisance, Bill saw a people in need – like the time he rescued an alcoholic from the snow bank in front of Jubilee House where a cop had dropped him off and took him to the Emergency Room.
The medics knew the man and weren’t too happy to see him. The cops had no place for him either. The person with the big heart was Bill, who recognized that all people deserve care and respect, no matter what their circumstances.
And so, every week without fail, Bill would check in with the Jubilee volunteers and do what needed to be done. If there was no fresh fruit in the house, Bill would drive to the store to pick up bananas, so the patrons could have a healthy snack. If there was a local fundraiser, Bill was on the scene to help set things up. He served food at Friday lunch, cleaned up messes, distributed supplies, and lent a sympathetic ear to anyone who needed to talk.
I said goodbye to Bill the day before he died, and even though he was physically unconscious, I felt a strong connection to his beautiful, loving spirit, which has now been set free.
We will miss you more than words can say. Rest in peace, Bill Floyd Hankins.