It's easy to throw money at a problem. It's easy to donate used jackets to a ministry that gives away clothes to the less fortunate. It's easy to put a spoonful of potatoes and gravy on a plate before you hand it to a homeless person. It's not easy to step into their world.
The cold weather hit quickly in Daytona Beach, FL. For over 10 years, when it dips to 40 degrees or colder the good folks from First United Methodist Church in Port Orange, FL open their doors to the homeless. Homeless men and women are brought to the church, fed a delicious, homemade dinner and given a warm, safe place to sleep for the night.
I've been blessed to play a role in this ministry for the past several years. I've learned this while working with the homeless and those that have been kicked to the curb. It's easy to do the easiest thing. What do I mean? Donating money to a worthy cause that helps the less fortunate and not getting your hands dirty is easy. Putting a plate of food in front of a dirty, homeless man is easy. Stepping into their world is not easy. It's hard.
You know you've stepped into the world of the homeless when you find yourself sitting down with them, talking, asking them questions, looking into their eyes and truly listening to them. The photo below is an example. In this photo you'll see youth pastor Tony Sorrell. Where is he? He is wearing a green hoodie, sitting at the table, looking into their eyes, listening and talking to the homeless. Tony stepped into their world.
The other night one of my homeless friends walked up to me as I was getting ready to leave the shelter. I was hungry and wanted to go home. This is typically the time that God has different plans for me. He stood in front of me, looked me in the eyes and said, "Mike, my best friend died a couple of weeks ago. He died right next to me while we were sleeping at our campsite. It's really messed me up. Could you give me a hug?" I gave my friend a hug while he cried and didn't let him go until he stopped crying. When he stopped crying he wiped away the tears and said, "thank you." For just a few moments, I pray that I stepped into his world.
It's not easy stepping into the world of the homeless. Many times it extremely inconvenient. The next day, a few hours later or minutes later I'm always glad that I didn't take the easy way out.
"You live among the least of these:
The weary and the weak.
And it would be a tragedy
For me to turn away.
All my needs You have supplied,
When I was dead You gave me life.
How could I not give it away so freely?
-- Leeland, Follow You