Every day I walk by at least 10 homeless people. I have a 5-block walk from the B.A.R.T. station to my new workplace. These homeless people are not the intrusive type who beg for money or hassle me on my way to work; they actually seem quite comfortable in their little groups of two or three. I imagine they discus the previous nights events or plan their day, but I honestly have no idea. Some have shopping carts stuffed to the brim with their belongings and others just a backpack. Some even have dogs!
I feel inadequate, clueless, and helpless in knowing what to offer them. Surely there is something they need that I could give them and yet, I just keep walking. I don't have much experience in what to do. Like I said, I'm clueless.
I have heard stories about what happens when you give a homeless guy money—he'll buy liquor, drugs, or other things that don't help his situation. You hear of someone taking in the homeless only to find that they never leave or that—when they do leave—they take your things. These are all things I've heard when I ask my friends how to help the homeless. The answer seems to be, "I know not to such-and-such; as for what to do, I don't know." You want to love them, help them, serve them like Jesus says, but you feel like you have to do it with boundaries for your own safety and privacy.
God set up a system in the Old Testament that protected the widows and the orphans. Communities were designed so no one was left in need. Here are a few passages that have given me some direction in this area:
"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed . . . "(Isaiah 58)
If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth (1 John 3:17-18).
There really isn't anything in the scriptures that says if we feel uncomfortable or unsafe we should NOT help the poor, hungry or needy. In fact, the parable of the good Samaritan teaches quite the opposite. If you read the above passages in their entirety, you realize that they all speak to how much God loves us and how His love needs to affect how we treat others. God's love for us is passionate, purposeful, even reckless. If that's the case, should I really let my need for security and my earthly possessions stop me from helping someone else? Isaiah 58 even goes into what God will do for you IF you do these things—do you doubt God will provide for you if you give everything away?
I haven't done any of these things yet—but I plan to. And you can hold me to it.
In other news, I have been working for Jews for Jesus in San Francisco for three weeks. Time seems to have flown by—which is a blessing because I think if my days of data entry went any slower I might go crazy. The job really isn't that bad—it does have its moments of boredom but I suppose that can be expected.
We are once again in Castro Valley after a wonderful one-week stint in the city. Being back here means we both have over an hour long commute each way to work. This has been a little exhausting, and I can't really understand why people choose to live this way long-term. We would appreciate your prayers as we seriously look for housing in the city! We are hopeful the move could be soon!