215. feeding the homeless (part two)
The feeding the homeless project meant a great deal to me, not just because we got to feed people, but also because it ties right in to what I’ve been learning in regards to what exactly it is that Christianity is supposed to be about (see blog 211). What I mean is, I’ve been finding that being a Christian has to do with living life now, the way it will be lived after Christ returns and makes all things right in the world because that’s a big part of how God intends to usher in his kingdom – through individual and groups (large and small) of Christians who live now, today, as if his kingdom were already here.
The whole thing went pretty smoothly. We prayed, unloaded the food, set up the food tables, prayed again to bless the food and started serving heaping plates of rice, corn, macaroni salad, and some kind of amazing beef stew-type dish. And the people kept coming and we kept dishing it out, piling the food up as high as they wanted. We smiled, looked them in the eye, and told them to come back for more.
And I loved it because all we did was give. We didn’t ask for any kind of song and dance from them, we didn’t preach to them or ask them to listen to a sermon while they ate. We did our best to talk to them, treat them with respect and dignity, and some of us got to pray for them individually. In short, we did our best to treat them as if they were a part of our church or a part of our family.
The other thing that we offered was a simple arts and crafts project for the children staying at the shelter. We brought a huge stack of magazines, scissors, glue, and construction paper and we encouraged the kids to explore their dreams by cutting out images from the magazines that represented what they hoped for. In the corner of the shelter where we were doing this, we put up a makeshift banner that read, “What are your dreams?” And I thought that was one of the coolest things I’ve ever been a part of – encouraging these kids to think beyond this shelter and beyond their difficulties, giving them permission to grab images that spoke to their heart, cut them out, and paste them to paper. When a child was done with their sheet, we taped them up on the wall under the banner.
It was an encouragement to me to see a corner of the shelter decorated by the dreams of children. And I don’t know if or how they were affected by it, but I like to think that maybe some of those kids will take hold of their dream and follow it until it becomes a reality. I imagine that these kids don’t get to dream big dreams very often and it’s my hope that our little exercise opened up their minds as to what’s possible.
My mother showed me an article in the paper to day about a man who went from being a homeless single father to a multi-million dollar stock broker who routinely gives waiters and housekeepers and other service industry workers thousand dollar tips. And there are lots of other stories like this.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m being entirely too optimistic about the whole thing. I mean, here I am in this house on this computer, I have a car in the garage, money in the bank, a job to go to, a healthy support network of family and friends. It’s easy for me to think that our one night of food and arts and crafts made some kind of impact on those people and their children, but the reality is that most (if not all) of them are still there tonight.
But God doesn’t ask us to save the world overnight. He asks us to do our part, to bring a piece of his kingdom to those who have no home and no food. Big changes only happen after small choices are made – like the choice to serve.
And I don’t write all of this to brag about what a great Christian I am, to call attention to my charity.
“So why are you writing then?”
Because I feel like I caught a glimpse of heaven touching earth in that shelter. I got to see God doing his thing – bringing blessing and love and grace. And I felt encouraged and blessed, and I suppose I write about it because I want to share that experience with others.
And as I write that, I think of the blog I posted a few weeks ago (see blog 208) about how I wasn’t stoked about sharing Christ with other people because I wasn’t sure what Christianity was about. Yet here I am, writing about what what I saw. And I’m kind of tripping out because I feel as if I’m on the verge of having an understanding of the Gospel that I actually want to talk about and share.
It’s a trippy feeling. And it feels pretty damn good.
PS. don’t forget to pray for the homeless – a reminder I write for myself more than anyone else.