I was part of a small group of well-meaning people who wanted to help at least a few of the thousands of people in our area who were homeless. Our intentions were wonderful. Our planning was flawed, though. We assumed that all homeless people were pretty much alike, and we thought we knew what they needed: food, clothes, a place to live, maybe even some motivation to “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps” as the saying goes.
Here’s what we learned:
- Not all homeless people are alike.
- In their remarkable diversity, all these people share two things: They are marginalized by our society, and they feel excluded from it by our laws. None of them feels recognized as an individual person.
Their needs were much deeper than we had expected. And then came God’s little surprise. God said to me, “These people are the outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual yearning of all of you. They are sacrament.” In effect, God used the victims of our societal brokenness as an awakening moment for me. I think God does that, takes our mistakes and uses them for good.
This message was adapted from “The Gift of Recognition” by Lynn C. Ramshaw that appeared in the October 2008 issue of Lutheran Woman Today (now Gather) magazine.