I've been ministering to the homeless almost every week for the past four years, providing food, clothing, blankets, and, I hope, spiritual nourishment.
One man, who was very large, was unapproachable for some weeks; he snarled when I went close and offered him food. For several weeks I prayed about this, seeing him in his perfection as a child of God and not accepting belligerence as any part of the man God created.
One day when I saw him again, he seemed especially forlorn. I sat a few feet away and remained silent for a while. I was praying - praying to see this man in his true light. I recalled the Bible saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:17). I was led to say to him, "You know, God is Love, and although you might not realize it at the moment, you are loved."
He suddenly swung around, and I thought he was going to strike me. Then he said, "Did you say the word love?" I replied, "I did." He said, "No one has ever said that word to me." I saw a tear start down his cheek.
I put my arm around his shoulders, and his head fell on my shoulder. He was crying almost uncontrollably. He pulled way, apologizing. I said it was OK. His story came out. He had never known his parents; he had been abused as a child, gotten into drugs and crime, been in prison.
I shared thoughts with him about healing, of how I saw him as God's child, that he was loved, that he could never be separated from divine Love. When I left, he was peaceful, grateful, almost joyful. I never saw that man again but have continued to keep him in thought.
A few weeks ago I met a man who told me this was his first day on the streets as a homeless person. The previous evening as he slept on a park bench, he had been robbed of his possessions. I shared what I could with him, food and clothing.
We spoke for some time, and I assured him that he was being taken care of right at that moment, that God's care is forever active, and as we learn to listen and put out of thought all our troubles, ideas occur, and from these ideas a way opens up. I shared with him my own experience of facing bankruptcy, and how by humbly turning to God in prayer a way did open.
His crying changed to a demeanor of profound gratitude. When I saw him some 30 minutes later, he was engrossed in reading "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy, a book I had given him.
Another man I see occasionally is one whom I've named Phil the philosopher. He told me he has a college degree and is a dedicated Bible student, owning four different translations. He writes sermons for a local church minister. We've had discussions on theology.
There have been many instances like these, and I have also seen brotherhood and caring and sharing among the homeless. I've witnessed healing and have seen lives turned around, some individuals starting small businesses, some being united with family again, even returning to college.
The homeless are often considered the "invisible" folk you see lying in doorways or begging at street corners, the shelter denizens, the street dwellers, the hoboes. But each of these individuals is a real person, an idea of God, a distinct identity. They want some recognition, even a nod or a smile. And a hug goes a long way.
Jesus' parable of the good Samaritan often makes me stop and ponder. The priest and Levite passed by on the other side, but the Samaritan, through his love, attended to the man's needs, even going the extra mile.
This is National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. It may be not just for the homeless but for each of us. We can consider how we might do something for them, including praying to God for answers.
My people shall dwell
in a peaceable habitation,
and in sure dwellings,
and in quiet resting places.