Homelessness. I don't know that word. I've always had a home. I've always been loved, cared for, spoiled even. It's real though and I should be familiar with it. Why are some people without home and family? I don't know...alcoholism? Laziness? Mental instability? Misfortune of some kind? Does that change anything really? They are still hurting, cold and hungry. Some stand in soup lines with black eye and black soul. Some sit quietly with their 13 year old daughter who should be at a cheer practice or listening to Mom read her Little Women. Some reeking of alcohol and dirty shirt. No goal, no plan, no hope. Walking to nowhere in particular.
I awkwardly offer him a blanket and a backpack filled with necessities, with a little fear of response. Dirty hands rummage through the bag and gravitate to the plastic bag of toiletries...soap...he points longingly at the Irish Spring box and smiles at the sight and scent of cleanliness. Forget the jerky and the peanuts, mitts and hat...it's the soap. The cleanliness he longs for. He smiles and nods at me in gratefulness. I gave him a bar of soap for Christmas and he is happy.
The black-eyed man stands fearfully in the corner. Full of confusion and helplessness. He wants a bar of soap too. The kind that cleans the soul. The soul that has made too many wrong choices that keep leading him to this soup line. We offer him cleansing. The gospel wash...scented with Jesus' sweat, foaming with His precious blood and rinsed with the powerful resurrection. It's still his choice. The soup kitchen will always be there for him, but he needs to know what the choices are. We need to make sure he knows the options.Tell them that they aren't really homeless, they just don't know the address. Give them the divine directions home.
The friendly, small lady tears over the package of brand new underwear. Brand new. What a treat. Worth crying over. She continues the tears as the gospel track is read to her while she hugs the Fruit of the Loom delicacy. Again...cleanliness. I thought hunger would be the issue, but I don't think it is. I know the joy of a hot shower, scented shirts straight form the dryer and smooth minty teeth...everyday. I also know the joy of freedom and forgiveness after a cleansing moment on my knees, secret confessions before my Father who knows already. He waits for me in the soup line. With my black eyes, dirty fingers and unchanged clothes. He must wonder why I insist on staying that way for so long.
We long for cleanliness. He offers it, no matter how dirty we get, and yet we stubbornly continue to roll in the mire. I don't know why. Maybe humility is needed. Humility to just give up and let go of MY way. How many times do I have to end up in the soup line before I try HIS way?
Humility is also needed to go there and offer the soap. You risk a little. Rejection, discomfort and aesthetic deprivation for a time. Just for a time. Humility is also needed to admit that it could have been me in that line, hugging those new undies. It might seem unlikely that I would let myself get there, but many of them were "somebody" once upon a time...they have stories. Images of God, tainted and broken. Not homeless, just lost.
"There, but for the grace of God, go I." -John Bradford
We really aren't much different. Just circumstances. I'm going to have a hot shower today...she won't. I can hear the fireplace crackling warm as I type..not so for her. New things adorn my body and home...today, she gets something new. Simply because I did something unusual. But with love and prayer we can both have Him...and He makes all things new.