How did a girl who grew up in the suburbs end up working with homeless people? In fact, not just working with them, but actually learning from them and caring deeply for them? Across the last 4 years I have learned much from those who are poor and often homeless. One of the things I’ve learned, is the more things you own, the more time you spend worrying about them. In fact, many of us who have much waste an incredible amount of time worrying. I think that’s what Jesus was trying to get at in Matthew 6:25-27.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”
Questions worth considering
How can a person smile when they have nothing? How can a person laugh when they are wearing old beat up clothes? How can a person care about another person when they don’t even know where their next meal is coming from? The homeless know how desperate they are and that they need help. Many of us who have much pretend that we aren’t as desperate as we really are, and that we are still in control in life. We deceive ourselves.
We depend upon ourselves and pretend we can figure it all out. The homeless know that doesn’t work. They have learned to depend on God and the kindness of others. Since they depend on the generosity of others, they are more apt to help someone in need.
Don’t get me wrong, there are many homeless people who are difficult, angry, and bitter, just like there are many of those people living in the suburbs. But the homeless have had to face their own desperation. They recognize their need for help and their masks have come off.
Hope in God
Every day before we open our clothing and food pantry at the Rescue Mission, I have a volunteer give a few announcements and say a short prayer. A few weeks ago, I was having a really hard day and my volunteer didn’t show up, so I had to make the announcements. I was focused on the many things on my agenda, so I was shocked when a group of the people we serve reminded me that I had neglected to pray. Sheepishly, I stopped and led in prayer. One man came up to me afterward and said, “Without God there is nothing to live for.”
His statement caught me completely off guard. He reminded me that no matter how great the burden we carry or how much stuff we have, without God’s love, hope begins to wane. A homeless man was God’s instrument to remind me that I need to put all my hope in God’s love, not in my own energies. I have learned so much from the poor and homeless.
All of us can become consumed with our plans and forget that without God there is no help and no hope. As a girl from the suburbs, I am learning much about life from the people who have very little. Among the homeless I have found many who live full of life, love, and grace.
Note: This blog originally posted December 2015 and has been republished to accompany the opening of the Periphery photo exhibit.