August 19, 2020 10:40 AM
One day I stopped at a local charity to see what sort of help was available for homeless people. This organization, which has a national presence and whose name you would probably recognize, caters to the homeless. So I walked in and a lady who I will call Denise (not her real name) said “Can I help you?” Her manner was actually kind of gruff and deadpan – no smile, all business. I said I was working with several homeless people in the area and wanted to find out if there were any local resources to help them. She invited me into her office and I sat down.
The first thing she said was that she had a buzzer within reach behind her desk that she could press that would send the police. Then she started asking me lots of questions and why I was interested in the homeless. Apparently my responses satisfied her, since her demeanor gradually became friendlier towards me. She said that one option was to put them up in a hotel for a few days, provided they did not have pets. Then I described a homeless lady I knew with 4 cats who slept in front of well-lit stores at night. She said I know who you’re talking about. Then she went on to say that that same lady had sat in the very same chair I was now sitting in not that long ago. Denise told her she would help her if she would only give up her cats. The lady refused, so they couldn’t help her.
Then I described a couple that I knew, a woman and her boyfriend, who were homeless and living in the woods. Denise told me that she was also familiar with that particular couple. She said the woman’s boyfriend was bad news and I should steer clear of him. She then described how she put both the woman and her boyfriend up in hotel a while back. But when she discovered they were making a porn movie, she kicked them out. Then she said, by the way, he is not actually her boyfriend, but her pimp. I wondered how she knew they were making a porn movie, were there cameras in the hotel room? And how did they know he was her pimp? But I did not ask.
We discussed other homeless people that I knew. I would give her a name and she would attempt to look them up in her database. But it was hit or miss since my information was sketchy. Then she commented that I really needed to ask better questions. I said, like what? She said always get their first and last names, their birthdate, address, employment status, military status, etc. I asked her why all that was necessary. She explained that once all this information was loaded into her computer system, then she could cross check them against other homeless databases to see what services they have used. At this point, I was thinking that it all sounded more like the homeless gestapo than a Christian charity. I had no interest in trying to interrogate the homeless. I just wanted to help them. But I kept my thoughts to myself.
Halfway through our meeting, an older homeless man walked in the front door and her demeanor instantly reverted back to deadpan. She left the room to talk to him. I could hear her asking him lots of questions but I could not hear any specifics. When she came back in the room, she announced that he had just told her 2 lies.
Then she told me the story of another homeless man who she had tried to help but without success. One day she saw him on the street. As she drove by him in her car, she wagged her finger at him and shook her head. Then she went on to caution me against letting any homeless person ride in my car. Then she said “And whatever you do, don’t take them home with you”.
I left that meeting feeling very unsettled, but I wasn’t sure why. During prayer I started thinking about a time when I reached out to a Christian organization in Cincinnati for help in dealing with a very traumatic event in my life. That organization was basically a group of women who helped other women going through hard times using biblical strategies. In the fall of 2016 I was emotionally fragile, severely traumatized and not sure where to go for help since I was divorced and my family was not speaking to me.
I remember walking into that help center for the very first time. The receptionist smiled warmly, got up from behind her desk, and welcomed me to the center. She offered me coffee or tea. The reception area looked like someone’s cozy living room with lots of homey touches. Soothing music played softly in the background. My counselor, Joanna (not her real name), was caring and empathetic. I remember being scared to tell her my story, thinking she would judge and condemn me. But she just listened to me in a very compassionate, nonjudgmental way. When I finished, she confided that she had gone through something very similar, and she remembered how painful it was. But the best part occurred at the very end when she gave me a big bear hug and told me it would be okay and I would get through this. And then she prayed for me. I remember being so grateful for the kindness she showed me at a time in my life when I had nowhere else to go.
Then I started thinking about the homeless again. I thought about how they must feel when they walk into that homeless shelter and are greeted coldly, told about the buzzer, interrogated, informed they have to give up their pets, and silently judged. It seemed to me that what they really needed was for a “Joanna” to treat them kindly and give them a hug. My prayer is that more people choose to show mercy and be a “Joanna” to others in these dark times.
Matthew 5:7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Luke 10:30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, 34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 And on the next day when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the innkeeper, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever you spend more, when I come again, I will repay you. 36 Which now of these three, think you, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves? 37 And he said, He that showed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do you likewise.
Luke 6:36 Be you therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
Matthew 25:31-46 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats: 33And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35For I was hungry, and you gave me food: I was thirsty, and you gave me drink: I was a stranger, and you took me in: 36Naked, and you clothed me: I was sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came unto me. 37Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we you hungry, and fed you? or thirsty, and gave you drink? 38When saw we you a stranger, and took you in? or naked, and clothed you? 39Or when saw we you sick, or in prison, and came unto you? 40And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Since you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me. 41Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42For I was hungry, and you gave me no food: I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink: 43I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and you visited me not. 44Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we you hungry, or thirsty or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto you? 45Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Since you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me. 46And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.SHOW_MERCY