Whatever you do for the least of these my brothers, you do it to me.
The conflict in my heart today is this. How can I sit still and do nothing when I know just twenty min. or so away from the box I call home is a whole other community refereed to as the homeless. Here I sit with three bathrooms to choose from, a closet full of clothes and a frig flowing with food. I complain about the gas prices but the truth is I can still afford to pay for the fuel that keeps my tires turning. I have the options to bathe in cold or hot water, wear flip flops or running shoes and sit where I want, when I want, with out being asked to leave.
Wed. afternoon I decided to hop on the light rail system and head to our downtown district with my brother, his children and mine. We passed by the least of these, their homes, their vehicles, of course shopping cart to boot as well as their family pets and companions that keep them company on the lonely streets they are so often kicked off of, ignored from or forgotten about.We hadn't planned this trip to be one of reaching out but rather it had been a tug on my brother’s heart to experience something new. Most people who have the option to drive, do so around here because your typical light rail rider has been given a stereo type title before they even enter the tracks, whether they fit that type or not is another thing.
My brother, who is very much like me, loves to be around people. We love to meet and greet where ever we go. My saying for this particular day was "a stranger is just a friend I haven't met yet" well until my 5 year old niece piped in and replied with "unless they kill you", which she had a point. Don't talk to strangers is a big one when you are still counting your age on one hand. In this life lesson that was unfolding before us, we were also able to teach our children balance and safety as well.
Again, my brother is all about new experiences, he wasn't looking for anything in particular and he didn't even know until this trip that my hearts shape and passion has been heading in such a direction we were going towards. It was such a God appointment, one that was just dropped in my lap. I couldn't imagine sharing this day with anyone else. My heart for those behind bars was now colliding with my heart for those with out homes.
As we rested in our seats and watched others board we smiled and greeted everyone who looked our way. At one point two guys sat in front of us and my brother extended his hand out to introduce himself and I followed. It was obvious by their eyes and smell that they had been drinking and were under some kind of influence but that did not stop us from loving them right where they were at. They proceeded to inform us that they were what they liked to refer to as house less, they just returned from possibly a shower program and one extended his hands out proudly to show me how clean his nails were. I complimented him on the nice work he had done to clean himself up and the gift he gave me for that was a smile from ear to ear. We came to what appeared to be their stop and wished them a good day and proceeded on our journey. God's chosen, the least of these, is what we had just experienced and I once again found myself hungry for more, like a day not so long ago when I met my precious friend Becky who lives on the river.
As we arrived at our destination, first stop, downtown Cathedral. I found myself drawn to the fact that everyday of the week at 12PM they offer a mass, a service, a teaching to those in public office, street workers, and homeless as well as just passer buyers. The contradiction in the visible signs of the people in the pews were amazing. Suits and ties, dirt and grime all in one building for a period of time. Was it shelter for some, truth for others, loneliness, what drew so many different people to this one place? It was a building where the church could meet that seemed to have drawn what I saw so many come to. The church being the people not the place, the place was the avenue for the message to be spread. The message being you are valued and worth the doors being open for you to enter. Amazing to see this unfold right before my eyes as I have come to realize how much the meaning of church has become blurred in today's' society and even in my own heart. We as a people are the church and in that moment it was evident that I was among the church.
We then proceeded to the local library, which was incredible, floors and floors of books and resources for the mind to devour. Sitting right in the middle of downtown. Here we were, the Cathedral, the library the court house and the jail and smack dab in the middle of that was the city park. This particular day it just happened to be farmer’s market day as well. As we finished up at the library, passing by many sleeping outside the doors and on the streets, we decided to join others in the park that day for lunch. We saw pan handlers, stock brokers, the homeless, men, women and children, teachers and writers, lawyers and doctors at least that is what it appeared to be. Because of the local surroundings I am assuming that is the range of people who we ate with and among that day.
We helped those collecting cans, sang with the homeless and laughed with the businessmen, waved to the children and talked to other parents. We took notice, left an impression and loved those around us for no other reason then doing so.What I saw that day was something that stirred in my heart. People in all there differences coming together and living in the moment, however brief it might have been. How do we bridge that gap and bring it from one moment to the next to produce a future of hope for those lost, forgotten and left behind?
For me, it’s remembering that Jesus did just that for me, when I was lost, forgotten and left behind, broken, beat and ready to be swallowed up by death, He was there to pick me up.
What I am learning by reaching out to the least of these in my own community and beyond is this. That the greatest gift I can give anyone, regardless of how they look, where they have been or who they are is my time, an ear to hear and a gentle touch, sometimes in the form of words, others through my hands.
As I come to terms with the conflict in my heart, I am also learning to deal with the fact that I am not called to give up all I have been given but rather I am called to give my all to those who have nothing.