A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to join my husband, Phil, on a business trip to Hawaii. I almost didn’t go because he would be working most of the time, leaving me to my own devices and because it is such a long flight (eight hours each way from Denver). Since I could only stay for a few days, I wasn’t sure that a total of 16 hours in a plane was worth the trek.
About a week before the trip, my husband said to me, “I can’t believe you don’t want to go to Hawaii with me.”
When I heard him say those words out loud, I realized that I was CRAZY for not jumping at the chance to spend a few days in the warm sun in one of the most beautiful places on earth with my man – even if I had to share him with work. So, we packed our bags and off we went!
The first night we were on Oahu, there was a welcome dinner for my husband’s colleagues and their spouses. After enjoying a sumptuous dinner on a poolside patio overlooking the ocean, we all walked as a group back to our hotel along the street that runs parallel with Waikiki Beach, taking in all the sights and sounds around us as we strolled.
Between Waikiki Beach and the sidewalk we were walking along, there is a grassy area with park benches so folks can sit and enjoy the view of the surfers by day and the sunset by nightfall. That’s the direction I was looking when I saw him. A homeless man reached into one of the public trash receptacles and pulled out a “to go” box that contained the remains of someone’s discarded meal.
The man opened the box and examined the contents. He tossed part of it aside with a flick of his wrist, but the rest of the leftovers would do for his dinner as he eagerly started eating whatever it was in that box.
Immediately, my mind recalled the meal I had just enjoyed. The smell of salt air, the sound of live music, the laughter of new friends, and, of course, the taste of delicious food – of which there was more than enough for all of us.
The sight of that man eating out of a garbage can haunted me the rest of that night and for the next few days. Of course, I have seen homeless people before, but the stark contrast between our two meals that evening shocked me to reality.
And to be completely transparent with you, I am very confused about what my response should be.
The “experts” on television tell us not to give the homeless money because it just prolongs their stay on the streets keeping them from getting the help they need. Then there is also the possibility of it being used for drugs or alcohol.
For a while, my response was to ignore those standing at the exit ramps and entrances to the shopping center in my neighborhood with cardboard signs asking for food or money. The problem is too big and overwhelming, plus I don’t want to be contributing to an alcoholic’s binges or a druggie’s fix.
But the knowledge that each one of these people is God’s child, dearly loved by Jesus as much as you or I am weighs on my heart. I don’t know what the answer is. Anything I can think of to do falls so short.
Volunteering at a soup kitchen is a wonderful thing and a great opportunity to expose our children to the idea of helping those less fortunate than ourselves. Yet, that still doesn’t address the man on a corner asking for something to eat.
I thought about programs like Habitat for Humanity that helps those who are willing to help themselves. I may look into volunteering with them. There is something about that program that speaks to my heart and seems like a more permanent solution for those who seek their help. But I still don’t know if that’s enough.
I realize that in many cases, mental illness plays a huge role in homelessness. And, yes, so do to drugs and alcohol. There are many shelters and programs “out there” for the homeless and that is great. My question is what do I do when I come face to face with another human being asking for my help? What would Jesus have me and you do to help “the least of these”?
I’d love to hear your ideas and ways you have helped others in the comments section!
Only You Can Save by Chris SlighI saw a man today, his whole world across his back
A living monument opposed to my success.
I tried to look into his eyes as his shuffled past my car
Sweat beading on his skin, his clothes and hair a mess.
As the light turned green and I pulled away, he slowly disappeared
Just a memory of another chance I failed to show your love here.
I wanna love because You love
I wanna give because You gave
I wanna reach my hand out to the lost
because I know Your hand can save
Only You can save
Only You can save
Sometimes I have to wonder if I really want to know
The struggle and the pain that others feel.
Do I want to hear the stories I see echoed in their eyes
Or is this love I say that I’m reflecting even real?
As the light turns on inside my head and I slowly disappear
I steel myself cuz what you call for me is to show your love here…