There is a part of the westside of my city that has a large population of homeless people. Several times a week, I drive past these men and women who are on the street corners. With a cardboard sign in their hand, along with a dejected expression upon their faces, they wait for a handout. The signs read, “God bless,” or “Anything helps.” Some appear to be very unhealthy. Very unsure of what their day will bring. Anxious. Others are dressed as if they have just stepped out of their homes to work the street corner as a second job, with a forced look of pain stretched across their face. I struggle with knowing who is real. Who is being honest? I struggle with allowing my prideful flesh to take the back seat and allowing His love to freely share what I have, regardless of their reasons for asking for a donation.
I sometimes wonder how these people have ended up this way? What is their story? If I were to ask, would they lie? If I were to give them money, would they run to the liquor store? If I were to give something of little or no value to them, would they just throw it away? A lot of questions and emotions have entered my mind over the years.
I started taking time to speak with some of them several years ago. I would just ask them basic questions. “What’s your name?” “Where are you from?” How are you?” Tell me about yourself.” As I started to really listen and observe these people through short discussions, I noticed something. I noticed that all of them, every single one of them, are human. I noticed that each one of them is exactly like myself. They eat, breathe, have feelings, struggle through the many challenges in life, carry scars and do their best to sort through their emotions. They have faith, or have lost it. They have won, and have lost. They are works in progress, or they are at the ends of their ropes, with no hope. No drive. They do not have faith in God, or themselves. They are down. Depressed. Dealing with mental illnesses. Hating their lives. Killing themselves with substances. Just trying to stay numb in order to make it through another day. Real people.
The following is not something that I normally write, because I do not like to bring attention to my works, but this morning I have been led to share a few things with others.
I have a soft spot in my heart for these people. I was once a pretty poor guy. My mother and I spent many years in a very poor position. She was divorced, and working as a waitress. I was a young teen, and really had a lot of unaddressed mental issues of my own. I would smoke, drink, use drugs and isolate within her little trailer in the middle of nowhere. Numbing myself, just like many of the homeless do to escape the “no way out” feeling. I had felt as if there would never be a way out of the miserable life of poverty. We lived off of cans of soup, macaroni and cheese, and ramen noodles. I had a little job that paid just enough to supply my habits, and when that money would run out, I would steal. We were not begging on the street corners, but we were struggling in our own ways. Those years really made me appreciate the many blessings that God has provided for me, and the strength He has given me to labor for all that I possess today.
As I have worked through the years, and have grown in my relationship with Christ, many things within have changed. There was a realization somewhere within this walk with our Lord in which my hardened heart began to soften. Simply put, His work began in me. The natural, deceitful heart of my flesh had reigned before His presence, and its craftiness was a constant torment. The empty heart, void of God, was the contributing factor that drove me to live without compassion. Lacking empathy. Inconsiderate of those who have less. I was awakened to the facts; I can live in response to the desires of the natural man, or I can live by the spirit of Christ. I can bear the fruits of His Spirit, or remain in a carnal mind and heart of hostility. The new road in Him is something that I cannot put into words. I now see what “the least of these” means in His Word…
Matthew 25:40 (NKJV)
40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
Jesus has taught me that those who care for the poor, troubled, hurting, unfortunate, hungry, imprisoned and malnourished individuals are not merely serving other people, but they are also serving Him.
Service. That is the key. That is the answer. We are to be servants to those who have little. Servants to all. We are to be loving towards those who lack. We are to see everyone as human, with need. We are to give to others, as He has given to us. He laid down His life, so that we may also have and give life. We are to bear the fruits of the Spirit, and rejoice in His love, with a loving response. We should learn about His love and ways through His Word, sharing those attributes within it, with everyone.
My work is petty, and I am not glorifying self when saying it, but I have made packages containing a sealed meal, water, a snack, a Bible and a card that points out some key Scripture verses. I carry them in my car and pass them out to the people within my town. I know that it is not much, and I don’t know what these people will do with them, but I do recognize the appreciation that they convey when receiving. I do praise God for the comfort within my heart when I see the love that has encompassed my life, amplified through serving. His lessons throughout those days of going without, have turned into days of gladly, giving back. Those times of having less have allowed me to become a more humble servant.