Have you seen the homeless?
No, I mean SEEN them?
Have you looked into their eyes?
do you look the other way?
Pretend not to see them?
Busy yourself in a conversation?
My husband and I just returned from a trip to San Diego. We had a wonderful time, just the two of us. I had been looking forward to spending some time alone while he attended work meetings. So…..on the first morning of our trip, I went out for a run and to explore the downtown a bit. What I saw surprised and appalled me.
People waking up and beginning their day…..
from a park bench…..
from a makeshift cardboard “tent”….
Now, I am not a stranger to homeless people. We frequently visit Chicago and are familiar with “street people.” But, somehow, seeing them during this trip affected me like never before. Maybe it was the sheer quantity I saw. There were both men and women. I saw every race- white, black, and Asian among the hurting. I saw both young and old. The image of a tall, beautiful woman looking at her reflection in a glass building as she cleaned her face with her hands and saliva will be etched in my mind forever. What struck me, and broke my heart was that all of the people carried something. Some, like the man above, carried grocery bags full of their belongings. Others had black garbage bags stuffed with their life’s possessions. And, some pushed around carts or luggage full of their “stuff.”
I couldn’t even fathom being able to fit all of my belongings- my life- into a cart that I pushed around all day. What unnerved me was witnessing people, human beings rummage through garbage cans looking for food…..
My heart broke for the people I saw that morning. But, the tipping point came when I stopped at Starbuck’s for a tea before heading back to the hotel. As I waited in line, holding back tears and silently praying, a very thin man, about my age, ran in the store, pulled out a discarded half eaten muffin out of the garbage, ran out of the store and ate it. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The first thing I did was buy the man a breakfast sandwich and gave it to him.
When I got back to my room, I wept and prayed. I knew I had to do more than just buy someone a sandwich.
I have been reading a life-changing book, Not a Fan. It is about being a FOLLOWER of Jesus, not just a “FAN”- living out a life of faith instead of just talking about it. The book challenges us, as Believers to die to self and live for Christ, following Him wherever He would take us. As I cried out to God that morning, I told Him I wanted to LIVE what I was reading- I wanted it to make a difference in my life! I couldn’t go have a manicure or lie by the pool- I had to live out my faith and DO SOMETHING!
As I prayed in the shower, a thought came to me to spend my day with the homeless.
So, I went to Subway and bought a small stack of gift cards. After praying about what to write in each one, I filled them with messages of hope and love, telling the person reading how much God loves them and how precious they are. On some, I felt led to tell them that God knows their name.
I went back to Starbuck’s, found a table outside and prayed that God would bring people to me and that He would give me strength to do this thing that was REALLY out of my comfort zone. Fear gripped me. What if someone would get violent or yell at me? What if someone started calling me a hypocrite or self-righteous or something? What if I was embarrassed? I couldn’t believe my fears! Here were people rooting through garbage and I WAS WORRIED ABOUT BEING EMBARRASSED????????
I was surprised at how nervous I was. My heart raced. My hands were shaking. I knew I needed to just DO IT. So, when a man approached a garbage can to go through it, I approached him and gave him the card, telling him what it was. He looked shocked, but took it. The next man who approached the garbage had a different reaction, though. He refused to take it. His sad eyes broke my heart as he said, “I can’t go in to Subway like this. Look at me.” And he walked away.
Many discouraging thoughts ran through my mind and most encouraged me to quit.
“What are you doing?”
“You are insulting them.”
“You can’t make a difference.”
But, I continued and my stack got smaller. I finished with the last group of four people all sitting against a building together. When I gave them the last of my cards, they were joyful and kept saying “God bless you.” Here is one of the men.
I am ashamed to say I have forgotten this man’s name. I asked him his name and it was like I gave him a million dollars just asking that. He got tears in his eyes when he told me it.
I may have forgotten, but God knows his name.
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows…” James 1:27
“Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the cords of unjustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not turn away from your own flesh and blood?” Isaiah 58:6-7
Lord, may I die daily to myself and follow You wherever You would lead. May I see people the way You see people. Break my heart with what breaks Your heart. Give me strength and courage to do the things that are uncomfortable. I love You, Lord. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
“Fasting” with you,
Have you seen the homeless?