The numbers are staggering. Thousands upon thousands. It’s so easy to grow numb to the statistics as they climb higher and higher.
But then I drive by on a Friday night and see you in a doorway, hugging your knees in a futile attempt to keep warm on a night where you can see your breath.
I see you huddled in a flimsy tent in the pouring rain, trying to escape the pain in restless sleep.
I see you on the corner of the street next to my work every. single. day. Holding that cardboard sign that’s as worn as your downcast eyes. You wait patiently for someone to stop and extend just a fraction of mercy. For someone who won’t treat you like an inconvenience.
Oh, this heartbreaking reality. You are a cruel and tangible reminder that we are not in Eden any longer.
I stop my car and roll down the window to hand you a box of protein bars from my passenger seat and feel my body pulse with conviction as I note the stark contrast between my well manicured pink nails next to your wrinkled dirty hands.
“God bless you sweet girl.”
You are so gracious and thankful. I can see God in your eyes when you look at me. They are worn, but they are kind and sincere. You aren’t a statistic. You aren’t just one of the thousands. You are a human being. You are just like me.
…Except you don’t have a home. You don’t have a warm bed and a soft pillow to rest your head on at night. And I begin to feel ashamed as I realize how often I am the person who drives past you on the street corner without so much as a second thought. How often I am the person who treats you like an inconvenience.
The truth is, I am selfish. I put my own desires before the needs of others all too often. I spend my money on manicures and lattes while you are sitting on a corner, starving and alone. I invest money, time and energy on things that bring fleeting satisfaction while people around me struggle for food and clothing. I claim to want a solution, but by innocently standing by, I am part of the problem.
The conviction tugs at my insides. I don’t want to be part of the problem. I don’t want to help just when it’s convenient. I want love. Real love. The kind that makes sacrifices and puts my own needs on the back burner. The kind that allows me to recognize myself in strangers on street corners. The kind that sees human beings where the rest of the world sees hopeless statistics. So this is my prayer tonight,
God, will you break my heart for what breaks yours. Will you allow me to feel burdened by the things that bring you pain. Will you grow my heart for people and expand it so there is room for more mercy and generosity. Show me a love infused with sacrifice and humility and boldness.
God, teach me to love.