Operation Spread Hope, Love & Joy, Part II
Point to Ponder:
How do you view the homeless or those on the street asking for help?
Sadly, in Austin and in most cities it is common to see homeless, desperate or hopeless people standing at busy intersections asking for help. Despite being advised by law officials and professionals to not give them money, if I have cash, change or any unopened food I always give what I have. And, when I do not have anything to give I get embarrassed and avoid eye contact. Ugh! Definitely not a mature and or compassionate response! I realize that by giving money I could be enabling their pursuit of getting a job or supplying funds for their next possible drug fix, but I don’t know their life story or history so to judge seems wrong and unfair.
Shamefully, there was a time when I didn’t feel this way and my heart was filled with judgement. While I didn’t voice it, when I saw someone asking for help my thought was that they should have more pride and work ethic than to lazily ask for my hard earned money. After all, I grew up with limited financial resources yet managed to work my way through college and make it. Why can’t they? However, several years ago I attended a Caritas luncheon where the co-authors of the book, Same Kind of Different as Me spoke. This experience changed my heart and perspective.
If you haven’t read the book, I encourage you to. Or if you wait until April 2016 it will be out in the theaters. In summary, through volunteering at a homeless meals program in Fort Worth, the co-authors Ron Hall (a wealthy Fort Worth art dealer) and Denver Moore (a literal modern-day hobo) developed a unique friendship. An intense bond was formed and both lives were changed– with Ron’s heart experiencing the greatest transformation. As a result of the book’s message and success, the two men traveled to speaking engagements, with Austin being one of them. Towards the end of the luncheon, Denver, the modern-day hobo and former prison inmate spoke. While he had no formal education, he understood life, the spiritual world, and had a connection with God like I had never seen or heard before. The room was silenced by his compassion, faith and wisdom and while I clung to every word he spoke, it was his advice on whether or not to give the homeless and hopeless money that I will never forget.
Having lived a life of homelessness, desperation and having people look down on him, Denver passionately urged the audience to bypass judgement towards the homeless, as we will never know what they have experienced in life and why they are in the situation they are in. Furthermore, he acknowledged that we’ve all been told not to give the homeless money, however he pleaded that we give what we can, and in doing so respectfully look them in their eyes and smile. Ultimately, he reminded us that we will never know if it will be our dollar, our smile or our words that will be the difference in their life.
After his sincere message, rather than look down on the homeless or beggars, I began to view them, their situation, and people in general with more compassion. I contemplated how I would want someone to treat me, my children, my family, and friends if we where homeless, desperate or falling on hopeless times. Or, if we were just in need of some help, support or encouragement. In doing so I realized how self-righteous and judgemental I had been. Then recently it was upon reading Matthew 26: 34 – 45, verses that I have listened to many times before, that I finally heard and realized how much more I can and need to do:
On His right, he will say; (Jesus) Come here, you beloved, you people whom My Father has blessed. Claim your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of creation. You shall be richly rewarded, for when I was hungry, you fed Me. And when I was thirsty, you gave Me something to drink; I was alone as a stranger, and you welcomed Me into your homes and into your lives; I was naked, and you gave Me clothes to wear; I was sick, and you tended to My needs; I was in prison, and you comforted Me.
Even then the righteous will not have achieved perfect understanding and will not recall these things.
Righteous: Master, when did we find You hungry and give You food? When did we find You thirsty and slake Your thirst? When did we find You a stranger and welcome You in, or find you naked and clothe You? When did we find You sick and nurse You to health? When did we visit You when You were in prison?
Jesus: I tell you this: whenever you saw a brother or sister hungry or cold, whatever you did to the least of these, so you did to Me.
And then He will turn to those on His left hand.
Jesus: Get away from Me, for I was starving, and you left Me with no food. I was dry and thirsty, you left Me to struggle with nothing to drink. When I was alone as a stranger, you turned away from Me. When I was pitifully naked, you left Me unclothed. When I was sick, you gave Me no care. When I was in prison, you did not comfort Me.
Unrighteous: Master, when did we see You hungry and thirsty? When did we see You friendless or homeless or excluded? When did we see you without clothes? When did we see You sick or in jail? When did we see You in distress and fail to respond?
Jesus: I tell you this: whenever you saw a brother hungry or cold, when you saw a sister weak and without friends, when you saw the least of these and ignored their suffering, so you ignored Me.
Despite your faith or belief, the idea that we should treat others as we would want to be treated says it all. And, we have all been given a conscious that guides us and gives us valuable information, which is why I am unable to make eye contact when someone is asking for help and I don’t have anything to give them. I know it’s not right or respectful to not show someone respect and give them the dignity they deserve by simply looking in their eye and exchanging a smile.
As a result, several months ago I began creating baggies of crackers, rice crispy treats, and breakfast bars. And, as of last week I added our printable ‘iGnite spread hope love and joy’ note cards. I keep the bags in my car so that I can have them with me at all times and it truly has made a difference! Therefore, as we continue to focus on spreading hope, love and joy, I hope you will consider doing the same and making care packages that you can hand out when needed. While the person you give the goodie bag and smile to will appreciate your generosity, I promise that your heart will be the one filled with hope, love and joy.
Create goodies bags and fill them with helpful items and the printable iGnite note cards. Keep them in your car and with a smile and eye contact, hand them to the homeless, hopeless or someone in need.
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