Over the past few years, I have come into contact and helped quite a few homeless individuals; some become familiar faces while others I never see again. One man, in particular, James*, I have known for about two years, and he always asks for the same thing. In the summer he would like ice, drink, and food, and during the winter, some warm coffee, to heat some food and maybe a blanket. Recently he came in to ask for his usual fill-up of ice and water but asked me to call him an ambulance. It turns out that he was suffering from heat stroke, his body was hurting all over, and he was suffering from chest pains. When the ambulance came to pick him up, he asked me to please put his drink carrier into his back pack, and that is when it truly struck me, all this man had in his entire existence was this backpack.
He has told me before that he lives under the bridge and he was always in search of food and water, but it never struck me just exactly what that looked like. Now at this moment I felt moved by such emotion I could have cried (and trust me I’m not a crier). I think back to how many times I complained that it is too hot or cold, when I have a heater and air conditioner, or how much I want something too expensive when I already have enough. This man had all his belongings in a backpack and never really had the opportunity to cool off from the heat, only when he was near death. When he was laying there, I told him that he was not just a person to me but rather family because he truly doesn’t have anyone else. I think of all the people I am blessed to have in my life but her this man, on the brink of death, probably feels completely and utterly alone.
The homeless and poor should not be defined by the situation they are in, and I have told this to James before. We view them as lazy beggars, which in some cases could be true but we do not know the entire circumstance of everyone’s situation. We don’t have that kind of power to judge someone in that sense, that is not our place at all. I am always reminded of the verse found in Matthew 25:35-36 “For I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me”.
Granted, I understand that every situation is different and not all homeless people are nice. I have encountered people who were very violent and aggressive, but it does not stop me. I always feel that if we have the Holy Spirit guiding us then we will be okay. We live in a society where people are dehumanized, and life is taken for granted. Think of how different and better the world would be if we cared about human beings as much as we cared about getting a brand-new car or the next best cellphone. We need more love in the world and it starts with the willingness to see humans as being made in the image of God, therefore each and every one of us is priceless.
Help me to see people as you did,
That they are to be loved, nurtured and cared for.
Help me to be a beacon of your light,
In a world that is darkened by the stain of materialism.
Help me to be a friend to those who have none,
And a glimmer of hope for the hopeless.
*Name has been changed to protect the identity.