Monday, October 5, 2009

The problem of Homelessness

Phew readers, we're starting off Monday morning with a heavy topic. As you may have figured from my posts about Graces, faith plays a very important role in my personal life. Yet, it has played a very small role on this blog.
There are a few reasons for this, but the main one is that when someone reads your posts they are reading from their perspective. So many people have been hurt by the church and by Christians, and are so skeptical of the church the last thing I wanted to do was to create a faith-based blog that alienated readers not only to my blog but also to Christianity.
However, occasionally an issue arises that will cause me to stop and think, and really want to post about my faith... you may remember my post on Samaritan's Purse and their work in the Darfur region of Sudan last winter.
Today's post is another such example. Homelessness... You see it everywhere. Here in Austin there are homeless people begging on every intersection corner. Every time I see it, my heart breaks. I feel this rush of shame to see a person designed in God's image reduced to begging, and living on the street. I also feel this rush of inadequacy, there are so many homeless people all over the city. I can't give money or food to every single one I would simply go broke. Every time I'm faced with this I think of Jesus' words in Matthew 25:

"then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Fahter; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me....Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." 
In the next verse he tells those who did not feed the hungry, give to drink to the thirsty, clothe the unclothed, and care for the sick and the prisoners to depart from him.

Pretty serious stuff, right? So I often find myself wondering... how am I as a mere individual supposed to respond to such tremendous need? I try to be faithful tithing each month, and one part of my tithe goes to my church, and another part of my tithe I will give to a charity. Sometimes its an international charity and sometimes its a local charity that works with the homeless. When I worked in Manhattan I would pack an extra lunch and take extra pieces of fruit and extra bottles of water and give those to the homeless people I saw on my walk to work... the unique thing about Manhattan is I saw the same homeless people in the same places every day. But somehow, I always feel like I'm falling short, like its not enough. I feel like there's too much need for me to respond to.
I realize that there are problems and challenges working with the homeless population. I realize that if I give money it may be spent in ways that aren't healthy. However, this passage from Matthew does not say only give to the hungry if they're going to use it the way you want. It just says give. I believe that it's not my place to assume that any resources I share will be misused, I think my role is simply to respond to my conscious and give and what happens with that gift is between the receiver and my redeemer.

So readers, is anyone else convicted by homelessness? Or any other social issue? How do you respond? How do you find peace and come to terms with situations that may be much bigger than you?


Practically Perfect... said...

I definitely have a heart for the homeless and for polysubstance abusers. Since I work in an ER, I see a combination of those two quite often. I know that some healthcare workers become irritated when homeless people come in or are found, but my heart goes out to them. The fact that I work in an area where I'm literally, physically helping them in a tangible sense makes me really glad to be a nurse :-) I've also started volunteering at a local indigent clinic. It's another way that I can give back.

cMe said...

I have a heavy heart for children or single mothers in need. We donate quite a bit of money to various charities whose work we support. DH and I also volunteer our time to help out where we can. Although I am a Christian, I sometimes feel that money given to the church may not help out as directly as I'd like to.

KatherineBee said...

I think the best way to help is to do everything in your power that you can - it sounds like you're already doing your part! I personally would rather give back myself rather than giving money. Working at soup kitchens or donating your time with homeless children, as well as giving out food are all good ways to give back. I know that I've given out food packages to people who in turn throw them on the ground and ask for money which makes it harder to want to help, but the people who really benefit and accept help make giving back easy to do.