Several times in my service commitments, I have noticed an unattractive phenomenon of the privileged. There is a lack of understanding among us that leads to cross words and bitterness towards those we are supposedly helping. Years ago, our church housed and fed homeless families for a week at a time on a rotational basis with other churches. One evening that we were hosting, the church phone rang, and an unknowing parishioner asked, “Are THE homeless there yet?” One of the families’ sixteen year old son had answered the phone and he was reduced to tears for the remainder of the evening. A big man looking boy, James, crumbled before me with the pain and realization that HE was who they were talking about—no name, no identity, except the disgraceful label of HOMELESS.
The last several evenings, I have experienced similar occurrences. Some of the helpers for the vacation Bible school that our church is sponsoring in a low-income, high crime part of town have a lack of compassion toward the people they are serving. I sometimes wonder why they are helping, spending their time complaining about hoarders of food, and the “tricks” the kids play to try to get an extra soda or cookie. I am not glossing over the situation, as it is a dangerous and foreign land for most of us. The first evening, a man was shot and killed in another area of the complex, and it didn’t even make the news. In most of our familiar surroundings, we could expect children (and adults) to share, to wait patiently, to be mannerly. This is not the world in which they live. There is a great book by Ruby Payne called Understanding Poverty that really helps clarify some of the hidden rules and expectations of the lower socio-economic bracket in our society. It doesn’t necessarily bring compassion or undeserved pity. It opens doors to truths many of us have never realized.
We have one more night to “get it right.” Please pray for each of our attitudes to be generous hearts desiring to serve in Jesus’ Name, without questioning others’ motives, without judgment. If we err, may we err on the side of love. And on a final note, if you don’t already have a real face to put with homeless people, think of young James.
Mighty To Save – Hillsong United
Hosea 6:6 – “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”