It all started a couple of months ago when I spontaneously signed up for a spring break trip with my college ministry at the very last minute. I had no idea what I was getting myself into other than an empty savings account, a guaranteed good time, and a mission trip where I was going to share my love for Christ. After some questioning and probing around, I found out that I would be headed to Denver, CO for seven days to take part in a social justice experience hosted by the DOOR network. Even after being told, I still didn’t know what any of it meant.
I found out that the DOOR network centered its work around the homeless. At this point in my life, I didn’t really know a lot about the homeless. Sure I knew that they obviously weren’t as financially sound as others and were often in poor health, but I had never taken the time to speak to someone who was homeless and rarely give them money because I don’t really carry cash. Of all that I didn’t know about the homeless, I did know that they needed the same love that we give to everyone else – God’s love.
While we were in Denver, we were hosted by a local church in their basement where their Sunday school rooms were. With us was a group of students from Purdue University. To our surprise, this group was not affiliated with a church at all. It took us a moment to understand that, but their group was made up of people entirely motivated by helping others and doing good things for society just because they felt like it. To me, and others in my group, it spoke tremendous amounts about the character of these people. We were able to interact with them and became pretty good friends over the course of the week. We shared laughs and our backgrounds all night long and woke up in the morning with the exact same mission in mind. Love.
We worked at a variety of different places throughout the week. These ranged from bus stops, to food banks, to food kitchens, to churches, and more. All of these places made am impact on my life and the way I not only treat people who are homeless, but all of God’s people. On one of our workdays, we were able to attend what is called the Networking Cafe. This place was designed not to provide some sort of service (food, internet, shelter, etc.) to people, but to engage with them by having coffee, talking, and playing games. The concept that some of the people who attend this time are really lonely and only want someone to ask them how they are and what they’re up to hit me like a brick. These people, although they may be poor or homeless or starving, are people, too. They are people who have feelings, and problems, and bad days just like everyone else. I really enjoyed my time being able to sit and learn about their experiences and hear their stories. Turns out, people who are homeless are A LOT like the rest of us. I talked to people who bad been through more than I could ever imagine.
On one of the first days, we worked at a warehouse that actually delivered food to a number of the other places we ended up serving. It was really cool to see the city of Denver come together and provide resources to those who can’t afford them.
While on this trip it was so reinforcing that people’s actions or their socioeconomic status’ do not define them. People are beautiful creations and need to be treated in such a way. We so frequently try to categorize people and rank them in classes so that we can compare ourselves to them. This is not the love that Christ taught us; this is judging and classism – the exact opposite. We need to reach out to people and ask how they are. And when we do that, we need to mean it. After we start treating all people like equal human beings in society, we will change the world. When we get off of our high horse and start helping those who don’t have horses at all, we will change the world. Christ lived his life serving others. It is important for us, who call ourselves disciples, followers, Christians, to do the same.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t help when government officials are not advocating for the same justice that the rest of us (hopefully) are. The city of Denver has passed a series of laws prohibiting the freedoms of people who are homeless. In Denver you are not technically allowed to give the homeless food on the streets. What kind of craziness is this? If you see someone who is suffering and you have more than enough, why should you not be able to give it to them? Also, there are laws prohibiting those who are homeless from residing in public places during times of hazardous conditions. For example, there are a series of amphitheaters and nice structures in Denver. These structures have quite a few nooks that one could find shelter in during the snow or during a hail storm. Yet, the government says that is not allowed. There shall be no “camping” as they say. What are these people hurting trying to find shelter from them elements? Why are we treating people worse than animals? Don’t even get me started on how that can relate to immigration.
The point is: we are not treating these people as equals. We are putting them further beneath us than their bank account may already. We are treating them as animals who don’t deserve as much as we have. We are not loving them as we have been instructed to do. Let us love them. Let us show them that although times may suck right now, Christ is still at work in their lives and there is a much better future to look forward to. We are all one in the body of Christ. We are all one community. Let’s start acting like it and realizing that even the homeless are people, too.