Thursday, November 6, 2014

NaBloPoMo- Day 6: A World of Great Need

The sequence of events unfolded in this way: This past summer, several members of the congregation I serve saw this video on YouTube, which led to a conversation about creating backpacks to distribute to homeless neighbors in need. Our Vacation Bible School project took shape and many contributed backpacks and useful items to go in the backpacks. Last week, the topic of our second hour intergenerational education offering was loving our neighbors and one of the options to attend was a great presentation by one of our members on what she was learning about being a thoughtful responder to homeless people in our midst. Her involvement was prompted by good conversations she and her husband had been having with their children about how to respond to the need. She shared the video above, as well as this one and some great tips on having conversations filled with compassion and dignity with people we encounter. The backpack project took shape for us, with assembly and note writing, so that recipients would receive a warm and supportive message along with tangible items such as socks, hats, gloves, food items, personal hygiene products and more. Folks who attend the class that morning were invited to take a filled backpack to offer, if they wished, or allow other volunteers to take any remaining backpacks to our local shelter.
I had occasion to be in Chicago yesterday and passed a lot of homeless men and women who were asking for assistance or carried signs, or were street musicians. Most of them had backpacks. After a hospital visit and lunch with a friend, I was walking down Michigan Avenue on my way to the train and passed a young man whose cardboard sign read, "I'm just trying to support my family." I stopped to talk with him and learned that he has two small children and a wife and that they have been homeless for six months because he was unable to find a job after returning from being stationed in Iraq. We talked for a few more moments and then I asked if I might give him the backpack from our church and what it contained. He agreed and looked inside. "May I share this?" he asked. I assured him that it was his to do with as he pleased. "My children haven't eaten this week," he said. I told him that I hoped he would find some helpful things and that I would keep him and his family in my prayers. We each said "God bless you" to the other, with lots of feeling, and I cried the rest of the walk to Union Station. I hope the backpack made some small difference in the young man's day. We live in a world of great, sometimes overwhelming need. But if feels much better to notice and engage with a person in need than to walk by as if he or she were invisible. I'm going to keep some backpacks handy in my car for future encounters. And I think I'll be keeping a gift card for food in my wallet as well. I hope these are good faith gestures.