Seeing Christ in the Face of the Homeless
I recently watched a television program series that brought attention to homelessness in the inner city. It was a great beginning about this life: a life that is difficult to experience, a life that is all to easily seen as hopeless by both those who must live on the street and those who work with them.
There is a missing part that is never mentioned to people, that God would want us to be those who would extend the help to people on the street and that is: people on the street could literally be your mother, father, brother or sister. There is really literally no separation between "them" and "us".
I have experienced life in a woman's shelter for five consecutive months. When I enetered the shleter, I had little choice about it. I thought in termos of "them" and "me". I felt that I was better than others; I am not a psychiatiric patient, not a sex trade worker and I have not spent my life on the street. After a time, God showed me that all the women there are my sisters, with many more similarities than differences.
All of us are broken in one way or another: brothers and sisters such as you are broken, too. God is present for all of us: God wants everybody not to be afraid of loving Him and to be free to love each other. One missing factor in street life is trust: how is trust possible if a sleeping place is unknown? How can trust be possible in an environment in which one cannot carry any cash? If others realize that a person does have some cash, that cash will be stolen. I have witenssed this, and it happens time and time again.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said once, "We do not remember the words of our enemies; we we remember the silence of our friends." Are you silent? I have been silent when I should have done what little I can to break the silence. Sometimes it is more comfortable not to do so. Never forget that our Lord was homeless. He wants a home in our hearts, minds and bodies. When the silence is broken, we give him a home.
What can you do to break this silence? I ask that if you see a panhandler on the street-don't walk by. Give the individual a few minutes of your time. Get to know his/her name. Whether you give money is up to you. Talking and befriending somebody is more powerful than handing a person a five-dollar bill and walking away.
All of us can become homeless. That can happen to anyone. I did own a condo and believed I was secure and ended up without a place to live. It seems there is little that one person can do: never forget that one of the greatest feedings began with just five loaves and two fishes. All our actions start from one small act.
God Bless you; do not forget that there is no "us" and "them". God wants all to be brothers and sisters. The person whom you see could literally be your brother, father, sister or mother.
Editors Note: Catherine Archer is a member of St. Silouan The Athonite Mission Parish in Toronto Ontario and assists with the work of St. John the Compassionate Mission. She embraced the Orthodox Faith after experiencing the love of Christ in the outreach ministeries of the mission, during a time of personal need.