6 Lessons I Learned From Spending a Day with a Homeless Survivor
Today’s post is more personal than what I normally write here … I’m attempting to understand something that happened to me last weekend when I had the honor of hosting David as he visited one of our campuses. David is a survivor of homelessness after having lived on the streets of New Jersey for over 12 years. He was a part of a special service we hosted where we highlighted the work of the New York City Relief Bus … a fantastic organization that our church partners with. I’m still trying to process everything I learned from my time with him. Here are a few lessons that I’m chewing on …
- Slow Down and Listen // It’s amazing what you hear when you slow down and listen to a person just tell their story. On our first evening together David literally talked for hours about his life starting with when he was in a school play in the 5th grade through his experience of being shot and living on the streets for 12 years to getting sober and getting off the streets. Why don’t I slow down to listen more?
- Miracles Still Happen // Listening to David tell story was awe inspiring. God still shows up in massive ways and chooses to step in and directly intervene in the human story. It was my privilege to listen to his story and how God moved in some dramatic ways. What does it say about my faith that stories of God stepping in and saving the day are the exception and not the rule?
- Simple Stuff Matters // Over the 12 years that David was the on the street there were times when people acted out in simple ways to help him … giving him a pair of clean socks, providing a few extra bowls of soup, people telling the cops to not bother him. Those simple acts of kindness spoke loudly to him … he would slow down and explain how people helped him in detail. How can I perform acts of simple kindness next time I see homeless people rather than just walking by?
- New Jersey is a Divided State // I live in one of the most economically divided states in the country. We have campuses that are in communities are amongst some of the wealthiest in the country and at the same time poverty is at a 52 year high in my home state. [ref] Over that last 5 years the poor have gotten poorer while the rich have continued to reach new heights. How does our church respond to an increasing economically divided community?
- Homelessness = Violence // Some of the stories that David told about life on the streets included horrific violence … people being set on fire, being slashed with box cutters, battery acid being splashed on people, being shot … but what was more unnerving was he spoke about this violence in a matter of fact manner. Violence is a constant companion to people living on the streets. What is it about our culture that lashes out in violence to some of the weakest amongst us?
- I am clueless about poverty. // I’ve never considered myself to have any level of significant understanding when it comes to poverty in our country but after spending this time with David, I felt profoundly stupid when it comes to this issue. How am I called to respond to poverty that is within the reach of my family?