Saturday, April 2, 2011

You Have to Know Their Name

After writing in my last post about words becoming flesh, and talking about Social Justice over at Sorta Crunchy for 40 Days of Community, I couldn't help but be reminded of how important our actions are when talking about social justice.

Wes and I are taking a group of 6 high school kids on a mission trip to Los Angeles this summer, and we have been meeting weekly with them to help prepare them for the trip. They have readings, reflections and bible memorization's due, all to help point them towards a better understanding of homelessness and our call to continue to work with God to bring His Kingdom to earth. We want to teach them that the Gospel is more than words, it is action (and even more than just action, it is hearing the stories of others). I thought I would research a little bit to see the demographics of the homeless in our town to share with the kids.

I decided to look up "homeless in (our town)" on google. And although I could not find any homeless shelters in my town, I did find a "Help for the Homeless Pets" here. "Wow" was all I could say. We have people sleeping in the riverbed every night and yet we have shelters for pets and not for PEOPLE.

Our town does not have a homeless shelter...and the closest one is at least a 30 minute drive. And yet we have so many homeless people living here, camped out under tarps in the riverbed.

To be honest, I'm not one to talk. I've never even been down in the riverbed. We have one place where the hungry can receive a meal, and it's only once a week and I've never served food there.

I have served the homeless before, though. I have talked with them, eaten with them, ridden the bus with them. I have. But it has been so long. In the 2 years I've lived in this town, I have only had conversations with one homeless man...and that's only because we knew him before he was homeless. I's just...that I've forgotten them. I've stopped seeing their faces, so it doesn't hurt as much anymore. I don't KNOW them I don't think about them.

Needless to say, I'm not good at this yet. I'm really very good at articulating what needs to be done. And I know quite a bit about Social Justice..but it's the doing it that is the hardest. I'm not there yet...but I'm trying (And knowing the needs is the first step). I want to really help people, but it's hard to know where to start sometimes.

I love organizations like Compassion International, Toms Shoes and Operation Christmas Child...but where are we challenging people to be face to face with those in need? Am I challenged? These organizations are doing wonderful things...but...It is EASY to sponsor a child for 38 dollars a month. It is EASY to buy a pair of Toms. It is EASY to fill a shoebox once a year. It is not as easy to walk the riverbed where the homeless sleep on the ground. It is not as easy to eat a meal with the homeless at the soup kitchen. It is not as easy to give a sandwich to a child who has sores on her body because her family can't even afford to go to the clinic.

It is easy to give money. It is easy to separate us from the homeless. It's when you know their name that things get sticky. It's when you know that Bonnie has 3 children and lives on the street. It's when you know that Jessie can't get out of prostitution. It's when you know that Chuck can't get a's then when your heart truly breaks...and its then that you see Jesus.

Here are some things to get us headed in the right direction...

May we know the stories of the weak. May we know the names of poor. And may we always see Jesus in their faces.

James 2: 15- 16 "If you know someone who doesn't have any clothes or food, you shouldn't just say, "I hope all goes well for you. I hope you will be warm and have plenty to eat." What good is it to say this, unless you do something to help?"


amber@mercyrising said...

I love how you want to know their names. We often forget that we are serving people, not projects.

Danny said...

Ironically, it always seems like the homeless have pets, so we should just have a place where the homeless and their pets can sleep. I gave a hitchiker a ride a year or two ago on my way down to see Sarah, and the one thing I was most interested by was his contentment to be a vagrant. It was interesting how much he was just like me in many ways. He was talking about the people he knew, the places he wanted to go, and how he was going to get there. He reminded me a bit of the guy from Into the Wild, although he was much older. He changed the way I thought about the homeless because he put a face to a concept.

I think our latest posts go well together because I talk about the dangers of abstracting the face to a concept or from taking God or humans and making them into abstract ideas, and is this really helpful at all? You and Wes have been inspiring me to get back into blogging.

p.s. I hope you haven't really severed any homeless. I don't want to clean up all that blood.

simplygrand said...

Thank you Amber for visiting! I read the excerpts from "Mercy Rising" on Sorta Crunchy's blog and LOVE IT. It's so good to find encouragement in social justice (Kingdom Justice!) issues because it can feel very overwhelming (especially from a woman's perspective).

I read your blog after you commented and see you work with Compassion! I hope you know I really do love Compassion (we sponsor a child) and the great things they do (Someone is face to face with those children through our donations!) Let us continue to find those small ways to be face to face wherever we are :)

simplygrand said...


I love the idea of a homeless shelter that also provides care for their pets. I've been with groups of kids before on mission trips that say "How can he have a dog when he doesn't have food for himself. He'll just use my money for dog food, not for himself" Which 1) it doesn't matter what he uses his money for, and 2) sometimes that animal is their only companion and friend, and they care so deeply and passionately for that animal.

I think we should start a shelter that combines those needs :)