This week our church is hosting our community’s winter shelter. Every week, a different church hosts homeless community members from approximately 6:30 pm – 8:00 am, providing dinner, a place to sleep, breakfast, and a bag lunch to go. The organization that runs the program also coordinates services like off-site showers, bus passes, referrals for services, and other necessities. For our church, this is an all hands on deck kind of week – from checking in guests, setting up and cleaning spaces, making and serving meals, handling checkout, and doing security. The week brings us together as a community, helps create a sense of giving back to the community, and gives us an outlet to shine Christ’s light.
But one of the things the shelter also does is forces us to look into the face of poverty. As I talk with our parishioners, I find them surprised to know (or remember) that the homeless often have jobs, sometimes are going to school, and may have things like cars, cell phones, and laptops. I find our parishioners reminded of our common humanity – that comfortable or poor, we all have likes, dislikes, joys, and sorrows. I find our parishioners able to see how important community can be for support, care, and love – whether a church community, a nonprofit community, or a community of people struggling to get by who look out for each other. I find our parishioners taking fresh new looks at their surroundings, perhaps seeing abundance for the first time in a long time.
Jesus spent a lot of time with the poor, oppressed, and marginalized. Part of that time was certainly about relieving suffering and healing brokenness. But I imagine part of that time was about looking into the face of poverty and seeing something one cannot see elsewhere – humanity, commonality, community, and abundance. I think Jesus also knew how hard it is to see the realness of life when surrounded by wealth – that’s why he was always telling people to give it away! Ultimately, Jesus cared about loving relationships, and sometimes money just gets in the way of those kind of authentic interactions.
Whether you are volunteering this week or not, I encourage you to find a way this week to step out of your comfort zone – have a conversation with someone who is suffering, look into the eyes of someone asking for help, or take a look at your own lifestyle and assess what you need less of in your life. It is in those moments we see glimpses of where Jesus is, and it is in those moments that we shine Christ’s light for others. I can’t wait to hear your stories!