I read a beautiful news story this week about a Pastor who dressed up like a dirty, mumbling, homeless man and went to church Sunday to see the response of his congregation. His disguise was so well done that his own wife and children didn’t recognize him.
It was interesting… and more than a little sad… to read about the reactions he received. Apparently even one person asked him to leave the building.
As he stepped into the pulpit and pulled off the glasses and wig I can only image the shocked faces. But it was one woman’s comment that really struck me.
She reported that as soon as she realized who the man behind the dirt was she began to weep. “I didn’t even say “hello” to him… I just looked away because I didn’t feel like I had anything to offer him.”
Suddenly I wondered if that is the real reason no one recognized him – that they really didn’t look “AT” him.
Living in Manhattan ~ which happens to have 15% of the nations homeless population ~ I had the opportunity to get a lot more up close and personal… and comfortable with the multitude of people panhandling on the streets. It always hurt, and of course I could not come close to helping each one I crossed paths with, but I did make an effort to always look them in the eye, smile, and reply to their request.
Wow was it uncomfy at first! But with practice it got easier… but it never got easier on my heart. It burned each time I witnessed someone in distress. I hope that part never get’s easier.And I hope that we can all be reminded during these holidays – where we so overindulge in everything – to keep an eye out for others and do what we can to help.
BUT THAT’S NOT THE STORY…
We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty.
We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.
I believe with all my heart that even those of us who rarely, if ever, encounter a true “homeless person” still come across those who are deeply intimate with the pain of poverty as defined by Mother Teresa.
There is very likely some one that you encounter regularly who feels forgotten by the world. Maybe at work, maybe at your holiday table… maybe at church.
Will you be brave enough to actually “look” at them and not take the easy ‘out’ of looking away.
You DO have something to offer. Your smile. Your time. Your ear. Your food. Your blanket…
And, perhaps most importantly, your human presence… which is always the greatest gift of all. Say “I’m Here” to someone – in deeds and / or in words. After all we are supposed to the the “hands and feet.”
Actually – I promise. It will be.