A Sock Comes Between Us
Learning to Know the Poor by Name
The Holidays are just around the corner. Along with all the festivities that will surround us, many will have a sense of charity. During the Christmas Holidays many people feel a need to give to the less fortunate. People give to shelters, the homeless and others who are poor. I know of people who take their kids out on the streets of downtown each December to hand out scarfs and socks to help the homeless stay warm.
While all this is commendable, I want to challenge you to go a step further this year. Why not get to know those people pushing shopping carts? They are real people with real emotions who need more than warm clothes one day a year. They need a friend. Why not commit to becoming a friend to them?
I hang out in homeless camps, on the streets with the homeless and anywhere else they are staying. My life has truly been blessed in the friendships that I have developed. I have discovered a few things that might help you as you think about going beyond giving away a pair of socks to actually stepping into their life.
Following are observations concerning the homeless:
1. Many are homeless due to no fault of their own
Many people on the streets and in the camps that I have gotten to know are individuals and families who hit a dead end financially. They may have had a sickness and could not cover the large medical bill. Some are retired, but due to a medical situation ended up on the streets. Some lost a job, and in the process of finding work, ran out of resources.
Whatever the situation we cannot know why they ended up homeless without getting to know them.
2. Many are hard workers, but cannot find work
Many homeless people work hard all day. While they do not work a traditional job, they must work hard to find food, keep their shelter maintained, clean up messes that others made, go to appointments, deal with the police kicking them out and having to tear down and set up again, and on and on. The reality is that once you have slipped into the cycle of homelessness it is difficult to get out. Once companies find out that you are homeless they tend not to hire you, so the cycle goes on. Too, it is difficult to take time to look for work when the police are constantly arresting you for sleeping outside or making you pick up and move.
Who is responsible for helping the homeless?
3. Many have given up and need encouragement
Many homeless individuals have beaten their head against the system for so long they figure it isn't worth the fight anymore. They really need a friend and positive encouragement. They don't need judged or labeled. They deal with that enough. Just being there and listening to them with interest gives them hope and the courage to go one more day.
4. Many are homeless due to their own fault, but so what?
Yes, many homeless people struggle with addiction, but why should that stop us from caring and being a friend to them? Should you be abandoned, shunned and judged because of your struggles? Rather than angry words, the thing that can push them towards recovery is love. To love them and accept them for who they are changes their whole world. Over and over again they say to me that life has changed and become better because they know that they have a friend in me and that I really love them as they are.
Fact is, my life is the one that ends up changed. People that you see on the streets are intelligent, gifted, and creative. They have so much to offer if they are given the chance. As I reach into their life, they end up reaching back. My life becomes so much fuller.
5. Many do not want a hand out
Many of you may be tempted to say, 'Well, why don't they go get government housing or get on government assistance'. While that may make sense the fact is that most of them do not want any government help. They want to get out of the cycle themselves, get a job and provide their own housing, but they just need one break. They just need that one person who will help them get a job despite their homeless situation. They are aware of all the resources that the government has to offer. But they are not looking for a hand out, but a hand up.
While I have offered a short list of observations about the homeless, let this be a starting point as you begin a journey into their life. You will find out that many assumptions that people have about the homeless is simply not true. Also, you will discover that their weaknesses are simply weaknesses we all share when we are judged, harassed and unloved.
Yes, the homeless need warm clothes, blankets and socks, but don't let that come between you and a life long friendship with someone who needs you.
*A note on the video below. This video is part two of a video by Connie Talk, invterviewing the homeless. I could not download the first part. For a context for this video please visit Youtube. I will see about getting Part One downloaded in the future.