Someone had sent me an email that contained some pictures and those pictures pushed me way out of my comfort zone. The pictures? Different individuals standing by themselves in the midst of different crowds…holding signs. The signs were homemade and had phrases like “I have a bed. I have a home. I am collecting money for someone who doesn’t.”
“When my clothes get wet, I can put on dry ones. I am collecting money for someone who can’t.”
”I feel safe. I feel loved. I am collecting money for someone who doesn’t.”
Basically the email had pictures of individuals posing as panhandlers. And this my Friend, took me out of my comfort zone. I knew I needed to do this so thus the Underground Outreach was created.
The stage was set: signs made, time set aside and location chosen. My purpose? It was two fold: bring awareness to the humanity side of homelessness and use all donations to purchase thermal underwear for our December 22nd outreach. And once again…God used this stage to open my eyes to a whole new aspect of homelessness, helping those in need, my self-worth and my uncomfortableness. Cayden, our eight-year-old volunteered to go with me along with a precious friend, Lindsey Sanders. We chose 71st & Highway 169. School was back in session after the snowfall so we chose from 3:30pm-5:00pm for high traffic.
Right when I stepped onto the grass next to the highway, I was immediately taken back to the halls of middle school. You know the feeling? The “What in the world am I doing here?!?! EVERYONE IS STARING AT ME! I AM WAY OUT OF MY COMFORT ZONE!” Yes, I would love to sit here and tell you how I spent the hour and a half praying for all the drivers, all the homeless and for world peace. Yeah, I can’t. I did pray for the homeless when I consciously thought about it. To be very raw with you, the glares and the lack of eye contact sucked every bit of self-confidence and assurance completely out of me. No, this outreach was not scheduled to be all about me but it is hard to not take away life lessons when you purposely place yourself in a situation you have never been in before.
The majority of the drivers would not make eye contact……………………Yeah, I can relate. For YEARS I would NOT make eye contact for someone standing on the side of the street holding a sign.
A handful of drivers/passengers donated money but did not make eye contact……………………….Again, I can relate. Yes, I have rolled down my window, handed cash or whatever items in my car all so cautiously NOT making eye contact…for safety reasons. Yeah, whatever. I did not make eye contact because I wanted to ignore the person, I wanted to ignore the need…I did not want to be held accountable for helping another…or not helping another.
A smaller handful of drivers/passengers asked questions with skepticism in their eyes and word selection: “Um. What church are you with?” “Is all this money really going to the homeless?” “Is this money really for you?” “Why are you doing this?”…………………………I can’t relate to this one. Before we started our montly outreaches I would not EVER begin a conversation with someone holding a sign…’I mean c’mon! What are they REALLY going to do with the two bucks I give them? I am sure drugs. I am sure they will use the money to buy drugs.’
Now before I sound all negative, we had some amazing drivers stop, roll their windows down, donate money, make eye contact and said extremely kind and compassionate words ABOUT the homeless………………………….Again, I can’t relate. I mean, yes, I have given money, fast-food gift cards, food and bags filled with goodies to individuals standing on the side of the road; however more of my years have been spent making sure the doors are locked, eye contact is not made, judgmental thoughts casted and extreme focus is placed on the car infront of me.
But not anymore……………………..
Overall we collected $67 for thermal underwear for the homeless. I am extremely grateful for every penny donated. I am okay with the lack of eye-contact. I truly am. I was that person. Who am I to judge? I am okay with the judgments casted, I was that person. Who am I to judge? But I will tell you, my heart grew every second while I stood in the cold for the homeless. As uncomfortable as I felt and insecure, it was extremely humbling to know when 5 o’clock arrived, I had a warm vehicle waiting for me. I had a warm bed to crawl into. I had a warm house to enjoy my family in. I had clean clothes to put on for the next day. I had family who supported me. Once again, my eyes were opened.
Friend, where are you? Specifically for people standing on the side of the street, where are you? If you do not feel comfortable giving money, please let me encourage you to keep something in your car to help: McDonald’s giftcards, QuickTrip giftcards, Ziplock bag filled with crackers, socks, bottle of water. Do you make eye contact? Do you pass judgment? Where are you? I promise you, I was the person who immediately thought, “Why can they not spend all this time and energy and just go get a job!” Hey, I am being real with you. And then God gently opened my eyes to the love He so graciously lavished upon me and He simple reminded me of these verses……………
Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” —– Matthew 25:34-46, New American Standard, complements of www.biblegateway.com
Dear Jesus, thank You for Your forgiveness. Thank You for forgiving me of my judgmental thoughts, my lack of compassion, my ignorance, my determination to NOT care…Father, thank You for opening my eyes to the poor, to those in need, to the individuals who You died for. Father, I pray for the gentleman who was standing at the very corner we stood. Who just minutes before we arrived held a sign, “I need a miracle.” Father, please open the eyes of Your followers, may we be followers who not only PROFESS to follow Your teachings but OBEY Your teachings. I pray for this Reader. Father, only You know this Reader’s heart. I pray they seek You and ask their compassion to grow more like Your compassion. May they desire to grow in their walk with You so they may be used to bless another, give to another, clothe another, feed another, visit another. Father, may we not be judgmental people….Oh Father, may we not be judgmental people……………..through the blood of the Cross I pray, Amen.
****If you would like to make a donation for our upcoming outreaches, feel free to make a check payable to STL234 Outreaches and mail to: PO BOX 470814 / TULSA / OK / 74147