I feel extremely blessed to have been raised by my mother. She taught me to be selfless, to give even when it may inconvenience me, and to love unconditionally. Something that has stuck with me for about a week now and has been resoundingly loud in the back of my mind is an event that occurred this past week.

A group of ladies from church put together these small little bags that contained snack items, hygiene products, a wash cloth, a bottle of water and some encouraging scripture. They put together about 25 of these bags to give out to homeless people they might encounter on the way to work or outside of various stores and gas stations. On this particular day, my mom and I were taking our lunch break with another co-worker. Normally, my mom and I bring our lunches so we never leave work, my co-worker never invites us to lunch, and we almost never go at 2 in the afternoon. Furthermore, my mom and I decided to grab 2 bags as we quickly left her office. Our business is down a highway that is near a few interstate exits as well as trucker stops that have showers so we often see several homeless individuals walking up and down this road. Being in Florida, the summers are brutal. Every day it's hot, humid, and 5 minutes in the sun leaves you drenched in sweat. This allows for one to easily become dehydrated.

Two older gentlemen were walking down the road, but they were 4 lanes of traffic away from us. They both had on old, worn jeans with a few rips and tears. One of the gentlemen was about 6 feet tall. He had grown out grey hair and wore a darker grey t-shirt. The other gentleman was a few inches shorter and had on a plaid button down shirt. He had dark hair and brown eyes. You could see the pain and hurt in his eyes. We decided to turn around after a few minutes of debate. We made the U-turn, drove up to them, rolled down the window and said,

"Hi, a few ladies from the church made these bags and we wanted to hand them out to people in need."

With tears in his eyes, one of the gentlemen said, "Thank you so much! God bless you guys." What he said next is what has stuck with me for the last week and it won't leave my mind.

He said, "You came at just the right time. We really needed this. Not too many people are nice and it's refreshing to feel loved. We just want to be loved."

I wanted to cry. God is so good in His timing and plan. It amazed me to see how what I consider to be such a small thing cheered someone else up. They were so kind and so appreciative. It humbled me honestly. It saddens me that as a society we look down on homeless people. We automatically assume that they are doing drugs, are alcoholics, or have some kind of gambling addiction. We jump to conclusions and assume the worst out of people. Maybe it's because of all of the negativity we see in the media or perhaps the stereotypes we have given them over time. At the end of the day, they may be homeless, but they are human.

Every person has a soul, has feelings, experiences emotions, and has a heart. On our worst days, the last thing we want is someone to look down at us in a distasteful way and so often that's exactly what happens. I think Jesse Jackson said it best, 

"Never look down on anybody unless you're helping them up."

We often look down on them with judgement, give a nasty look, and keep passing on as if they were nothing. We don't know what kind of trials that person has gone through and continues to go through. They aren't proud of or happy with the circumstances they're in. Sometimes it is the above generalizations I mentioned that landed them in the position to be homeless, but God still calls us to love them. In fact, God loves the homeless and the needy just as much as He loves you and me. He loves unconditionally and without partiality. Jesus spent time with the worst of us during his time on Earth. He selected a tax collector to be a disciple and showed pity to an adulteress who was caught in the act. Peter denied Him three times and God still loved Him through that. Paul was known as Saul before his encounter with God and he was killing Christians, yet he is known as one of the greatest apostles. God loves us through our sin and mistakes and that's why He sent His son to die on the cross for us, to pay a debt He did not owe. He rose again from the dead and because of that we can be forgiven and reconciled. We can receive Christ into our hearts and receive the Holy Spirit. When we do that, God sees us as perfect and in the same manner as He sees His son. 

Proverbs 31:8-9 "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy."

That's a far cry from what we do as a society. God calls us to defend their rights and to speak up for them! If not us, then who? No one will because we are all standing on the sideline in silence waiting for someone else to do something, but we can change that with one small act of kindness at a time. Love is a verb, an action. Not just a word that we can loosely throw around.  

Matthew 25:35-40 " 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 took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you took care of Me; I was in prison and you visited 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?  When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’ “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’"

It's time to make love a verb. We must put our words and our faith into action. What we do for the least of these, we do for God. So when we we look down on these people and overlook them, in a way, we have that same attitude towards God. He calls us to help those in need and instead we give an excuse and grumble about it.  When the disciples asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was, He replied,

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your strength, and all of your mind."

But it doesn't end there. Just a little further in the passage He states, 

"Love your neighbor as yourself."

Are we really loving these people in need as we love ourselves if we are judging them and leaving them there to suffer? No. We're not. If we're being real with ourselves, we aren't. Of course we must exercise caution as some people will take advantage of generosity and kindness, but we do need to help people who are in need as a church. God didn't command us to turn this responsibility over to the government or various programs, He called us, the church. God calls us to love. He does not selectively love us based on how well we look or how good of a person we are. He just loves us. He created us and knew us before we were in the womb which makes Him love each of us that much more. 

I didn't post this to brag, to be boastful, or to criticize society for not helping people. That wasn't my intention at all. The purpose was to show that these people are human, that they want to be loved and deserve it, that they want kindness as we do and that we must change our view of them because we are no better than those who struggle in that way. Once we start to change our view of those in need and help them, the world becomes a better place one person at a time and one act of kindness at a time.  

 

Published by Kaylyn Thigpen