Since I can remember I’ve had a soft spot in my heart for the homeless. I’ve given them money and food without hesitation or judgement. I guess I’ve always been able to understand that because I don’t know the circumstances and/or decisions that led them to where they are my only concern is to bring them some sort of relief in that moment.
A few months before I started my walk with Christ me, my husband and son made about 20 brown bag lunches, drove to the heart of downtown, and passed out 1 bag per homeless person. Due to the fact that I was having a little bit more of an interaction with each person than when I simply gave them money or food before the traffic light turned green I was able to observe each person more and take it in. I noticed that each of them were surprised at the gesture, at times they even seemed confused and in disbelief that we were doing this.
Can you believe that? Persons in disbelief that they were being helped (fed) by others.
We didn’t ask questions about why they were in this situation nor did that even cross our minds or hearts. In that moment all we saw were homeless humans who would enjoy a simple brown bag lunch and in some cases a few minute conversation. They sensed our sincerity because their gratitude showed in their smiles.
Fast forward a few months to when I started my walk with Christ (which I often to fail to mention started in August 2015), and my heart began to soften even more for them. I read Proverbs 19:17 that tells us “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will reward them for what they have done.” I knew I had never given to them in order to be rewarded nor would I start simply for that reason, but it did confirm that the Lord sees this population in ways so many don’t. Although my heart has softened and I continued to give as I always had I often found myself making excuses for not doing more than what I was already comfortable doing. That went on until just a month ago probably. I found a homeless ministry through the bible study I attend and me, my husband and both kids went to serve again (finally).
Three to four long tables were filled with trays of food and the volunteers stood behind the trays ready for the people to come up with their plates. And so one by one they formed a line and I again wanted to take it all in.
- I noticed all different kinds of races and ages. Being in need and homeless does not discriminate.
- I realized that we were only about 12 minutes away from home – a safe and higher socio-economic suburb of Pittsburgh. I took a mental note of the bubble we forget we live in.
- I noticed that they rarely asked what the food was. They simply wanted it all. My mind wandered to my kids who can be very picky eaters or to when I’m a restaurant and can’t make up my mind because there are so many choices on the menu.
- They came up for seconds and thirds. I wondered when was the last time they may have eaten when I had just eaten a snack before arriving.
- I noticed a man wearing an undershirt that clearly was meant to be white, but was almost yellow and about to tear. My mind wandered to the abundance of clothes we already had and continue to accumulate.
- I noticed that a lot of them rarely made much eye contact with us. They kept their heads down a lot and with humility said thank you each and every time. One man, who either couldn’t talk or chose not to talk, simply gestured with his hand for more and more.
- When they had finished their meals there was a good amount left over, and so they once again quickly formed a line ready to pack what would probably be some of their meals for only a day or two maximum.
As it was wrapping up I actually had to gather my emotions a little. I hadn’t had this happen to me before, and as I reflect I know it’s because of the growth and maturity in my relationship with the Holy Spirit. I was reminded of the financial ministry class my husband I took in January 2016. It transformed us from the inside and we no longer view worldly possessions in the same way we used to. We made radical choices to sell most of our belongings, sell the house, downsize significantly, and only have one car. But let’s re-read that … “We MADE radical CHOICES … ” and here I had just served about 50 people who were not in any position to even make a choice to sell or downsize anything. In that moment I realized how “rich” I still am and how easily blinded I am to that reality simply because of some supposedly “hard” choices we made that has our life looking different than it did just 2 years ago. What’s the popular term now a days? 1st world country problems.
Although far from perfect and at times fall into the material desires of the flesh these experiences have simply shifted my perspective to redefining my appreciation for what I have, don’t have, and also don’t want anymore. I know now that serving the less fortunate and being their advocate is my mission. I don’t know where it will lead or what God has in store, but I know with His guidance I will serve where, when and how I am supposed to. Let’s read Matthew 25:40:
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me.”