Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat… We must find each other.”
Traveling in Europe, one often meets beggars on the street. The streets of Paris, of Rome, of Barcelona and even London have caused me to encounter many, many homeless people. My heart often goes out to them. Other times, I am guilty of wondering if they want a different kind of life. But, my reality has always been one of not knowing what is the best way to help. A few coins here and there don't do much. There are times that I am very clearly led to give monetarily. Other times, I feel that the Spirit puts a block on that. Maybe that is an excuse, but it is truth.
But about three years ago, while traveling, I felt a very clear direction from the Spirit that although I may not be able to give much, I should always give dignity. That is a challenge with some of the street people that are met. But I began to try to make honest eye contact, to smile, to speak, to acknowledge their existence even if I could not give money.
Then, earlier this year Jewel's story to read for school was "The Family Under the Bridge" by Natalie Savage Carlson. It is a little book about a mother and her three children who become homeless and end up living under a bridge. An old hobo (Armand) becomes involved with the children. Although Armand always says he chooses to live like he does, eventually the children draw him into another life. While we were in Rome last March we encountered a homeless man sleeping under a box. Jewel asked me if he was like Armand or like the family. At first I could not understand what she was asking, but she finally asked "does he want to live on the street or does he not have anywhere else to be?" I told her I didn't know; then I asked her if it mattered. She answered that she would feel sorry for him if he didn't want to be there. We had a healthy discussion that although we may feel sorry for someone for one reason or another, we should be treating them the same--they were still people who deserved to be noticed. At five I had no idea that there were people who had less than me, and she not only knows but she notices! I pray that heart of compassion continues to grow in her.
Yesterday, I caught a glimpse that she gets it. We were in Manchester shopping and met a homeless man selling a newspaper called the "Big Issue." The Big Issue is a scheme across England that allows the homeless to earn a little money rather than having to beg for what they need. I had no change on me. So when he asked if I'd like to buy a paper I smiled and said, "no thank you." He stopped in his path and smiled back and replied, "that's okay, thanks for answering." As we walked on, Jewel asked why he said that and I said because most people just ignore him. Her answer, "Is that rude or just sad?" It's both sweetie, it's both.
We may not have much to offer. But we can always offer dignity. A smile, a hello, a touch can sometimes mean as much as a few coins. Being noticed matters to us all.
Father God, help me to see people as you see them--as people with hurting hearts and needy souls. Help me to be obedient to Your Spirit when you urge me to give. Help me to always offer a person their dignity and acknowledge their worth. Help me not to be a part of a problem that ignores the humanity of those who have less than me. Amen.
Amy is the hostess this week at In Pursuit of Proverbs 31. Please join us there and be blessed!