In today’s world, it’s common to see people standing on the corner holding signs that declare how desperate they are for financial assistance. In our small town, we also have individuals that walk up and down the streets at all hours of the day and night, and over the years they have become familiar simply by being continually visible. I along with others have spoken with them and assist in whatever way possible. Most of them have a place to stay and receive social assistance but still need help in many different ways. They suffer from various health problems and dysfunctional family situations but unfortunately are also exposed to harassment as people honk their horns and laugh.
One older gentleman in particular pushes a shopping cart around town, and it’s usually filled with empty cans and various items he has found. His skin is weathered and wrinkled and occasionally someone will stop and talk with him and bring him a sandwich. In speaking with him I discovered he receives Social Security and has a modest place to live, but he seems to enjoy walking the streets and is free to do whatever he wants as long as he is not bothering anyone or causing a problem. We have a number of other colorful characters who do the same thing and remind us there are people who live a much different life than we do. I’m sure there are reasons and circumstances that would explain their situation, but we are not to look down or be cruel with those who have experienced a difficult and disappointing life.
Colossians, Chapter 3, describes the attributes that Jesus is hoping we will realize and develop. “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, a heart of mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; showing patience and understanding, and forgiving one another.”
As a community chaplain and a member of our state and local emergency crisis response teams, I am involved with those seeking assistance, especially during the wintertime. Our local leaders graciously open the schools and specific buildings for emergency warming shelters for the homeless, and restaurants are always generous to donate food. Recently, a new emergency shelter has opened with a vision to provide 60 beds, along with washers and dryers where individuals can maintain their clothes, and they also attempt to serve three meals per day. My sister Terri, who helps me each year with the holiday food boxes for the needy, was taking a tour of this new facility recently with her 8-year-old son, Victor. He listened as she was explaining to him about generosity and how important it is to help others. Suddenly, he spoke up and said, “Mom, maybe the man that pushes that shopping cart around town can find this place.” The room fell quiet. He was trying to process this information and the innocence of a child had connected with having compassion on someone in need. This brings a tear to my eye as I think how important it is to teach our children to not take our blessings for granted and how Christ wants us to love and help others.
James, Chapter 2, talks about those who are wealthy and the ones who are poor and refers to respect and attitudes of pride and the way we treat people. The writer goes on to explain how easy it is to brag about possessing faith and having pity on those who are suffering, while yet walking away without actually doing anything to bring relief to the situation. Verse 15, “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you tells them, depart in peace and I hope you find food and shelter but does not take action to give them what they need – how is that helping?”
We can use the excuse that people have created their own problems, but we have all made mistakes and if not for the grace of God where would any of us be?
“And be kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for the sake of Christ has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32.
DR. BILLY HOLLAND lives in Central Kentucky with his wife Cheryl, where he is a Christian author and community chaplain. To learn about his free CD offer, visit billyhollandministries.com.