Ricky. Arturo. Maria. Rob. Howie. John. Real people that I have met on the streets this year. Real people dealing with pain.
I now visit the city of Austin monthly. If you spend any time downtown, you will see the many homeless tents. Today they were surrounding the City Hall in protest as I walked into a salon to get a manicure. Ironic. The juxtaposition of wealth and poverty. Seemingly two different worlds.
Jesus says, “‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
A long time ago, I decided to lean into this love Jesus calls us to. I was in college. Buying a sandwich for a man in the grocery store; buying groceries for a woman on the corner; buying a burger and fries for a man at the convenient store. I never give out cash, but I do buy a meal or groceries.
Since I have lost my son, I have been bolder to share my story and to ask about their story. I have realized that I have pain and that they likely have pain too; I deal with shame and maybe they do too. We both likely want to feel better and to have a sense of dignity as a human being. Commonalities-no matter race, ethnicity, social status, economic status, education, etc, etc.
So, if we are walking to get a meal, I ask them to share their life story. John was a Coast Guard boat operator with three kids. Ricky was a 22-year old who got kicked out of his house and had four siblings. Maria, a mother from Honduras, with five children to feed. Each person has a story and so do I.
I ask them to pray for me and tell them that I will pray for them. I mean it and we usually shed a few tears together. Maria sobbed for me. I am grateful for these conversations. I tell them about Jesus and that He is helping me through my crazy pain and that He cares for me and for them. I want them to have HOPE and PURPOSE.
How I wish I could solve the problem of homelessness. I have visions of counselors on every corner, going to the library to ask for access to the computers for job searches, and all kinds of ideas. I read that there is a wonderful truck ministry that brings meals to many locations throughout downtown. But, all I really need to do is love people, engage, and be bold as I go, one person at a time.