Yesterday I started asking questions in the Reader's Guide of the book, 'same kind of different as me.' I want to make people think of how we as one person can change a bad situation. So, yesterday was about prejudice and today is about homelessness and I think honestly, the two go hand in hand.
1- What is your initial reaction to encountering a homeless person or someone who is in serious financial or personal need? For me, it truly depends on the situation. Living in Phoenix I did volunteer work for a wonderful womens organization. One day I was walking and saw an older lady fall on the ground. I went over to help her up and it was obvious she was mentally ill. She jumped up and started cursing me and swinging a bag at me and I just walked into the facility and asked them to contact security. You can't place yourself in harms way! Another time a man had asked me for $5 so he could take a shower at a local facility that I knew charged for showers., I gave it to him. An hour later, returning to my car, he was there again (no shower) only when I told him I already gave him money, he began cursing at me. You just have to be very aware of your surroundings. I will help where I can, but if someone becomes verbally abusive, I am done...walking away...see ya!!
I have encountered people in serious financial and personal need and I do what I can to help those in need. It is who I am. I remember by son Justin once made fresh cinnamon rolls in home ec and we were going to his orthodontist and would eat them the next morning for breakfast...we saw a man asking for food and Justin gave him the rolls. The man was crying! I have sewn new clothing for children who have nothing and given money to people in need. More often than not, I try to help them by giving them or taking them to a place that can help more than I can. Even if we think we have nothing, we can still see others around us that have less!!
2- If you were in that situation, how would you want others to respond to you? Many times people walk past these people and stare straight down. It demeans them even more. In the mornings a friend and I walk down town a few times a week and we always say hello and smile to people who live on the street. Sometimes they say nothing and keep going, other times they smile back and say thank you. I would want to be acknowledged, not ignored. Do unto others and not a one of us can say we can't afford to give a smile!
3- Other than money to social services agencies, what are three things you can do to provide ministry to the homeless people in your community? 1- Work in the shelters, missions feeding people, talking to people, listening to people. 2- Hand out warm clothing in the winter, bottles of water in the summer and ask them at that time if you can pray for them. 3- Take them to dinner or lunch. Nothing shocks people like seeing someone being kind to a street person and buying them lunch! I will never forget a well dressed, polite young man at Jack in the Box in front of me one day (we have a lot of kids attending school that have no homes in our area due to parents on crack and meth), he was counting change and asking what he could get for his money. A well dressed businessman came up at that time very irate that his burger wasn't fixed and demanded a fresh one. The worker fixed him a new one and told him he could keep the old one. Toss it in the trash said the man...the polite kid asked him, instead of throwing it in the trash, could I please have it? What happened next crushed me...the businessman snatched the burger away from the worker and looked at the young man and said, 'I will give it to my dog before I let you eat it.' I told the businessman what I thought and then I bought the young man lunch! Is that what we have reduced ourselves to? I hope not! 4- Talk to them, just go up and talk to them!
4- Jesus' ministry was often focused on society's outcasts. Why did Jesus seek them out rather than socialize with the religious elite? With which crowd are you most likely to spend time - the outcasts in your communit or the religous elite? Why? I would go with the outcasts because so many times in my life I have been outcast...pregnant at 16 and not married. Divorced with 2 small kids and no place to go. Sleeping in my car. The religious elite don't care about anything but show. They don't want to know you, don't want to help you and they certainly don't want you living next door to them. Even the homeless will help you learn your way around the streets and show you where to get your next meal. I want someone who is going to genuinely care about me and helping me change my life, not tossing me a few dollars and walking away feeling they did all they could!