Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Clueless Serving the Homeless

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.


Anonymous said...

How do you know they don't see you as a Christ follower?
Isn't being stinky always a fact? Why would stating a truth be judgemental unless it was judgemental? It's okay to not like shaking hands with foul smelling people, isn't it? You still shake their hands and show them positive regard. Does it matter why you get up at five thirty and do this for these people? I don't do it and I love you for doing it.

Debra said...

He loves you for doing it...I'm still trying to find a reason to love you. Just kidding. Awesome thoughts. Keep them coming.

Blane's Girl said...

Thank you so much Steve for being so real. I can relate to so much of what you shared. How refreshing it is to read what comes from your heart...C

Steve said...

Tim, I appreciate your feedback and have thought about what you said. In particular, your wondering why I am so concerned about not coming across as judgmental when I say that many homeless smell. I think I know what's the origin of my concern. When I was young i worked with an older pious, fundamentalist who was, I discovered, a bigot/racist. One day he told me, "All ________s smell. They all have an odor." I realized that was not a fact, but his prejudice and bias being spoken as fact. I think I fear--dread?--someone regarding me in a similar light, i.e. a racist/ a profiler, a man of stereotypes, due to something I might say. So I felt the need to assure you and others that my statement was a fact rather than derived from prejudice. Okay, enough. I hope that explains. Thanks for reading me.

chliri said...

How refreshing to read something so honest. Am sure your words reflect the true feelings of so many other "good Samaritans'" (no matter their form of service) who could never admit (to themselves as well as others) this level of honesty. "Feelings" are temporary mood states, not indelible markers reflective of one's character. What one DOES with their feelings is what's most important. Like what you did Steve. You acknowledged your feelings, processed them with some logic (I presume anyway) and ultimately chose to share them with others in the context of humility and humanness. Any who read this post have the choice to reflect and self assess because of your bravery!

Anonymous said...

What would happen if someone thought you were prejudice? (I love asking people who might actually answer and further more, know. smile )

Steve said...

Chliri, I appreciate your affirmation.

Tim, I don't have a formulated response to your question. If in my right mind and spirit, I would take into consideration their observation and look in the mirror to see if there is truth in what they say. If their observation was based on misunderstanding, I would attempt to clarify. If they insisted on their observation I would be influenced by their judgment (i.e. it would hurt) but I would not defined by it. I believe I know my core, my heart, regardless of someone's differing viewpoint.
On the other hand, I might slit their tires.
Just kidding.

Anonymous said...

My good man, I was sent to you for a reason. You know those shows where that happens? I'm your person. So listen to me and let's not make it so that someone is dying or some kid needs a home before you see the message. Why would you need to convince anyone that you are honorable? Those who know you, know you are. You know you are, you second guess yourself. Why would someone's insistence or misperception that you are less than honorable be of importance? Feel sorry for their "inadequacies" in having such thoughts and feelings. Their inadequacies don't make them bad people, it is just an illustration of their learned lack of openness and understanding of others. Close minded people are not free, are they? Why would what they think hurt you? Only you can allow that to happen. Why would you? It doesn't help them or you. You just be sure in who you are, it's real clear to me and I am smart. (It's a good thing you told me you were kidding about slitting their tires because I wouldn't have known.) wink

Anonymous said...

You DID see the humor in there, no? I don't want my tires slit.