How was it possible that I didn’t “see” my first homeless person until I was 12 years old? It was while visiting Washington DC on a school safety patrol trip. Of all the sites we took in, that was the most memorable point of the trip for me. Decades later, whether working trade shows in Las Vegas or Miami and even driving to the grocery store in the suburbs of Minneapolis, I “saw” others. I have often tried to help, have often prayed asking God what can “we” do? Then the river of life pushes me along downstream and I forget.
Recently while in Jacksonville FL, the need was forced to the forefront of my heart again. There are so many homeless out and about there. Again, I prayed and listened. What can I do; what can “the church” do when the need is so big; what would Jesus do; what are you doing about this, God?
We discovered a church while in Jacksonville that has a food distribution in their lobby after service each Sunday. Seemingly homeless people (with their rolling carts) are worshiping right along with me. The church has a mobile shower unit that visits parks weekly and a meal is provided at that time also. Obviously, there are still needs to be met, but this church does the part God has given them to do, faithfully sharing the love of Jesus, week after week, in word and deed. What a great example!
I accept that I cannot “fix” all the problems homeless people face, but I can still do something. By faith, I will dare to believe that even “small” Spirit-led acts can have a God-impact in someone’s life. I’ll quit expecting God to show me His entire plan and simply focus on what He does show me - my next small step of obedience.
Here’s the baby steps I have taken so far:
- to pray for individuals rather than just pity them
- to be ready with supplies or cash to give as the Lord leads
- to make eye-contact and offer a smile
- when possible, to ask their name
- to always acknowledge (to them and to myself) their personhood and value in God’s sight
- to listen for the next small step
If you have insights or ideas, I would sincerely like to hear about them as I continue to flesh out my response and “give everything I got”.