I get up at 5:30 every Sunday morning to help feed the homeless. What are you doing that time of day?
I do it, not because I'm noble or loving, but because I am neither. It's not a calling; it's a corrective. I do it because I need it.
I hate getting up at 5:30 on any morning, much less on a "Sabbath rest" morning. My wife, on the other hand, wakes up singing "The hills are alive. . . " and I have to suppress the urge to permanently silence her melodic voice.
She and I are part of a team from our church that feeds the homeless every Sunday morning. She does it because she loves these men and women. I do it because I don't. My infatuation with myself is so entrenched that I do this as a means of ripping the attention off myself and making me consider someone else's needs. She does it because she has compassion; I do so, hoping it will create compassion.
I serve the homeless because it forces me out of my ever-expanding comfort zone. I'll always take flannel over frigid; the warmth of the fetal position under the cover of warm Lands End flannel is sweet comfort. The problem is. . . my whole life is quite cushy and comfortable, and there are millions who have no assurance of food or shelter on any given day, and as long as I keep them out of sight and out of mind, I would continue to cultivate my life of consumption and acquisition. Prying the remote out of my right hand and, instead, shaking the cold hand of a homeless guy keeps me real.
I serve the homeless not because of what I can give to them, but because of what they give to me. They are financially impoverished; I am not. Many of them are "rich" in spirit and faith; I am not. Consequently, I am blessed by their presence. Last week, as one of the homeless was leaving our crowded quarters he stopped and assured me, "You are in my daily prayers." Now I'm flooded with conviction. First, I don't have the discipline of a daily structured time of prayer. Secondly, I don't pray for anybody daily. I was moved by his care and humbled by the life he models for me. Third, he has nothing, no one, no place and I would think he'd be consumed by his plight. Yet he prays for us daily. Who is more like Christ here--the giver or the receiver?
Doing this makes me take that proverbial look in the mirror. Sometimes the look is an "a-ah" look; often, it is an "ooh" glimpse. To say that many of the homeless smell is not a judgment; it is simply fact. Serving them makes me take a hard look at and wrestle with that part of me that wants to recoil and distance myself from those who are dirty and smelly. Doing this causes me to check that initial impulse to bristle and, instead, greet or embrace.
Acqua Di Gio Man has to get dirty.
I also do this, not because i want to, but because Christ told us to. I wish he had commanded us to support the Caribbean economy Nov. through Feb. That I want to do. I have to believe that if Jesus urges us to do something his desire must pre-empt mine.
It is my hope that in the doing of this service I will, indeed, want to. I hope that serving the poor will progress from a conviction to compassion. I hope that these men and women will eventually see not a do-goder, but a Christ follower.
Acqui Di Gio Man is encountering a Brut world.