Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Homeless can be Heartless

We got burnt. As some of you know, our church serves the homeless a fantastic breakfast out of our tiny church office downtown. (See a prior blog, Jan.10, The Clueless Serving the Homeless.)
It's tiny, cramped quarters and at 7:00a.m. we open the doors and 70+ men and women come pouring in. Last week, one of them began making a scene and wouldn't de-escalate so I approached him and told him he had two options: calm down or he'd have to leave. He responded, "Oh, so you want to play hard-ball!" Time passed and one of our team-members saw him on his cellphone and 10 minutes later the fire marshal showed up, saying someone had complained about so many people being in a small space. This past week the fire marshal met with our pastor and determined that occupancy is 49. Our teams average about 10 people, so to be safe we now have to let 35 in while the others stand outside in the cold.

Yeh, it could just be a coincidence; maybe he was calling his mother to wish her Happy Valentine's Day. I confronted him privately, and, of course, he denied everything. He didn't acknowledge he had called the fire marshal; but neither did he claim he called his mother.

Why would you do that to people who week in and week out have provided you food and clothing? Why would you jeopardize your fellow-homeless peers by taking an action that could have potentially shout down the entire operation? I'll never know.

This I know. We will continue to serve him. Though he made a terribly misguided decision, he, nonetheless, still needs food and clothing. We began this outreach and will continue to serve not because of the warm, appreciative response or outcome but because (1) Christ has called us to do so (2) these individuals have a desperate need which we can meet.

At this point, I do not FEEL warmly toward him or loving of him. I want to shove him against the wall and scream, "What the hell are you doin', you ungrateul slob!?!") (Again, see my prior blog which will explain a lot.)

I have had this stark "awakening": my attitude of and desire for revenge is no different than his. My desire to take matters into my own hands is no less misguided than the decision he made. My anger is no less toxic than his.
So I back off and,instead, I DO loving things for him in spite of, at the moment, having loathing feelings.

Sometimes, those serving the homeless can be heartless, too.


Bongo said...

I found myself being very judgemental about this guy.. My thoughts were this homeless man..hungry..using HIS cell phone.. but someone put me in my place..I've been almost homeless and worried about feeding my kids,, yet I continued to by tabacco to fill my ciagarettes to fill my addiction.. when I could have been buying food or a warm shirt for my it's really like a slap in the face when you have to look at your own stuff..And then I'm thinkin,,poor guy .. he's havin a bad day.. he's cold , hungry , tired and trapped...I dunno.. all I know is I have been put in my place

Anonymous said...

Steve and Bonnie,
I struggle with this issue almost daily. I want people to do what I want them to. I also think people "should" do certain things and live in certain ways. People on public assistance should not smoke over two packs of cigarettes a day when their children are hungry. Parents should give up smoking crack cocaine as their children are neglected and abused. Why can't these people just do what we want them to? Answer: They can. Are they going to? Probably not. We all know the myriad of reasons for human behavior. We also know that people will continue to behave in ways that "reward" them in whatever fashion they perceive that to be. Most can't begin to percieve a different lifestyle, much less begin to know how to get there. Many don't want the responsiblity of being a healthy and mature adult. I don't like it a lot of the time myself. We can be angry, like some of my co-workers are, that public assistance clients have free cell phones. Or we realize realitically that if we treat these people with compassion and respect, (I don't mean enabling), they are much more likely to do WHAT WE WANT THEM TO. Humor there.... Accepting others always makes things better. Accepting ourselves defintely makes things better. People are not their behavior. They make the choices they do for reasons we will probably never know.