Recently, I was invited to participate in a church mission project for homeless people. My first response was "no way." I'm the kind of person who would rather support from afar. This is a quality I am not very proud of, but it is the truth. It is much easier to donate things like ketchup, collect canned goods or give away blankets. But to actually look people in the eye as you hand them a meal is very different.
So when this project kept coming up over and over, I knew I needed to "man up." This was not a smiley decision, this was a "do it scared" sort of time.
We pulled up on the designated spot to see hundreds of homeless people gathered in anticipation of a picnic meal. To say I was terrified to even get out of car was an understatement. My wimp self wanted to drive away. But luckily my brave self prevailed as my son and I made our way to the picnic.
I'm so glad we didn't miss it. We spent the afternoon talking to all sorts of people -- people just like me, but who had fallen to difficult circumstances. People that were drug addicts, jobless, broken, unable to return to their home countries. I practiced my elementary Spanish with those that didn't speak English. I introduced men with tatooos and piercings all over their face to my son. We even sang songs with those that felt like singing. It was a total grab bag of experiences.
After that day, I felt emotionally raw. The most surprising thing was that people just wanted to tell me their story. I wasn't there to change them, to do anything but to listen, be a friend, give a meal. Most were grateful for someone who would simply hear them, to matter in this world. In that, I am no different.They may sleep in a different place and have dark experiences to tell. But we all long for the same thing -- to be significant in this life.
If you want to find out more about serving the homeless population, visit www.lovewins.info.
Or for a really powerful article about "What it means to be homeless" -- check this out: