Everlast sings this song called "Know what it's like" and although it is profane, one of the song's points is that the way we treat the homeless (which is bad) is because we don't understand what it's like to be homeless - or in the case of the song "to sing the blues."
Stacie Orrico sings a song called "Instead" and the general point is that given a different roll of the dice, she could have ended up like (in one case) the homeless man she just passed on the street. She asks herself, "Is he hungry; does he have a family?" and questions her own reaction.
Focus on the Family interviewed this guy the other night; he intentionally made himself homeless. He and a friend were dropped off in six different cities to live on the street for a month. He talked about the community, and then how he resorted to pan handling because he simply didn't get enough support from the existing city shelters.
So, this all has me thinking.
My initial thought about the guy on the street corner with the sign is that I don't like him. I figure he is lazy, likely an addict and I even sort of feel he might be secretly wealthy. I know, it's crazy, but that's what I really feel.
Shoot, man, that homeless guy could just be doing a college project - or is a recovering addict who wishes he hadn't ruined his life and his marriage. Not a secret billionaire.
One time this guy asked me for coffee money. I figured it was really for beer or cigarette money. I was already walking down the street so I invited him to walk with me and when we got to Starbucks he could order whatever he wanted. He agreed and I got him a coffee and sandwich. He seemed pretty straight and sobber in retrospect.
Here's what's interesting about that. He told me he preferred to be homeless. He had been for six years and he understood the streets and would be most successful there. It totally did not stick with me; I couldn't put myself into that perspective.
And this is what I have been thinking.
As a Christian, God calls me to do two things: (1) worship and (2) obey. It's important to note that I am not called to evaluate the validity of people's situation, perspective or condition. I am called to simply obey and so then I have a serious problem with Matthew 5:14,16 which says good deeds are the light I am supposed to shine.
So, on the corner of Speer and Market there's always this guy. He's not threatening. He's not pushy. In fact, he never actually looks at me. But I look at him. I wonder if he feels me looking and if it feels like I am looking down. That's not light.
Then, there's also common sense. Some guys who approach me in Denver have the most liquored breath; handing them anything valuable is like handing them a bottle. So, how can I help?
Well, I support the City Union Mission. That's a start, right? Sure. I also give to the church, which gives to the convention which serves the inner city. That's another good start, right? Sure.
But like most Americans, I am conditioned to replace action with transference. I transfer my own work, my own involvement and my own positive impact to cash - then expect someone else to shine my light for me. It's shameful. But, I'm lazy.
I'm going to have to think more about this.