This past weekend, I participated in a city-wide campaign to provide housing for homeless people in NYC.
I don’t write this to communicate how great of a person I am: I got roped into participation and up until Friday night I was trying to ascertain some way to cancel at the last minute. I’m not an especially good person and I tend not to feel much guilt when I do walk by.
But on Saturday, I had to reconfigure my whole attitude. Instead of avoiding the homeless I had to look out for them, since my natural inclination is to avoid eye contact and look away. I had to engage in a way that sometimes felt uncomfortable.
These kinds of events are ones I can often justify not going to by making reference to my spiritual gifts. I don’t think my gift is evangelism and so I can often simply remind myself that my mere presence there is all that’s required of me. But I know that’s not true.
While not walking by, I met a man named Wesley. His voice was quiet – so much so that I couldn’t hear him responding to our questions. We invited him back to the host church but he seemed to decline for fear of being uprooted and displaced. We gave him a care package (with items that seemed a bit useless), prayed for him, and went on our way.
In a recent hankgames video, John Green makes the comment that we (as a society) bestow personhood and a sense of self on individuals. Though I don’t completely agree with that statement, I think there’s some truth to it. In my last moment with Wesley, as I went to shake his hand, I so wanted to withhold the common courtesy, respect, and personhood I would freely give to any stranger on the street. I wanted to immediately wash my hands, remembering the interaction but forgetting the actual significance of it.
I don’t have some amazing epiphany to end this post with. I’m considering participating in the weekly DWB events. I’m flooded with countless scriptures. I’m wondering if I’ll actually do things differently in light of Saturday. I’m realizing that that’s mostly up to me.