I had the great opportunity and joy to hear Mike Yankoski speak yesterday at a homelessness conference I attended through my job as a supervisor with a local housing agency. He is the author of the book "Under the Overpass" (see sidebar for link). The book is a journal of the entry into and journey through homelessness him and his friend took for 5 months in 6 major U.S cities. This was in response to God speaking to his heart about his own willingness to look the other way when need met him face to face. His transparency was refreshing, for I know too often I have looked the other way when need has confronted me
I had read the book a year or two ago and was and continue to be inspired and challenged by the message and by the lessons that it contained as they experienced how people treated them while they lived a life as those Jesus refers to as "the least of these" (Matt. 25:31-46).
I was touched and reminded of many things as he spoke. One was that we take so much for granted, such as a place to lay our head at night, a bed, sheets and blankets, clothing, a lock on our door to secure our possessions, a car we don't have to sleep in, a refrigerator filled with more food that we don't need than food we really do need, being able to buy food and gas and have a roof over our heads instead of having to choose between these, a switch to turn on heat when we are cold and air conditioning when we are warm, a shower to get cleaned up every day, a toilet we can go to when we need to take care of our needs.
As well, I was reminded that we must never lose sight of the fact that those that are homeless are PEOPLE first and foremost. It is easy, too easy to dismiss someone when they don't look, or talk, or smell the way that we expect we should. Mike shared how he made special notations in his journal on the days when people actually spoke with them or held a conversation. He said it happened so infrequently that it was noteworthy. How sad it is that the people that Jesus loves and cares for so much are marginalized and often treated as less that people, less than human, because circumstances placed them in a situation that we could easily be in ourselves except for God's grace.
I continue to hope and pray and work toward the day when the church will be the church Jesus called us to be. A church that will lavishly minister to those around us in need and not be fearful, or live in light of times past when we feel we may have beed deceived by someone in need which keeps us from giving wholeheartedly to the next person we see that is in need.
Please check out his book and his website, undertheoverpass.com. You will be encouraged.