Monday, October 20, 2008

Hope for the Homeless

When I was in college, I was part of a group called Hope for the Homeless. They did various things, mostly working with local shelters, bringing in food from restaurants and grocery stores, things like that. I was involved with the tutoring program at the Salvation Army. A few of us would go over to the shelter once a week and help the kids with their homework. I didn't feel like I was helping much, but I was glad to at least be in their lives.

My most vivid memory of my (limited) involvement is of the night we spent on the streets with the homeless. We camped out outside an office building in downtown Raleigh, ate donated pizza, listened to music, and played cards with the homeless guys wandering the streets that night. It was surprisingly fun. It did two things for me: 1) It reminded me that those guys on the street are real people with real stories, and 2) It showed me that a lot of those people could have chosen to NOT be on the streets if they wanted.

Flash forward to my life now. Probably like everyone else, I go through that brief guilty/confused drama when I stop at a stoplight and see someone holding a sign and begging for help. I want to help: I don't know how. I'm busy, I'm cynical, and I'm selfish. I want to show love, but I don't want to enable. I won't just throw cash at some person I don't know, hoping that they won't use it on drugs or booze. So what's a girl to do? Drive on, unfortunately.

But those verses in the Bible keep nagging me... "

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares," (Heb 13:2)

And Jesus' description of the day of Judgement: "Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.' " (Matt. 25:37-40).

But now I finally have a good idea, thanks to my friend Maureen's friend! I'm so excited. I've given away grocery coupons before, but I think this is better. I'm going to keep a gift bag in my car, filled with non-perishable food like soup, crackers, juice, hot cocoa, etc. I also bought a bus pass to put in there, and I'm writing up a list of local shelters right now. I think I'll write a brief note on there to make it personal, since I won't have time to talk at a stop light. A booklet with a clear explanation of the gospel, and I think it'll be set.

I'm pretty excited about getting to give this away. I hope it's as good of an idea as I think it is.... :)


Becca said...

Great Terri! I've thought about this dilema for years, I will probably follow your example. Usually I end up giving away whatever I have in the diaper bag for's not like my kids are starving. But, every time we pass a particular intersection, Eva starts begging for her crackers...the ones I gave away over a year ago :)!

Jen said...

yeah! i've struggled with this at times, too. i really want to do SOMETHING, but don't ever know what i CAN do. this is a great idea. i think i will do the same. thanks for sharing and not keeping this to yourself!

Jessica said...

terri, this is great!! i have also given the whatever-is-in-the-van food item. and tim has given away his luch numerous times. but this is a great idea. being prepared to serve! thanks for sharing this terri!