I am putting together a multicultural independent study project for J-term, which I hope will take me to working at Water Street Rescue Mission about a half hour from my house. And in that half hour drive, my car will transport me from a homogenous bedroom community/small town that can still feel like 1950's America, to "the City." Having done most of my growing up in Pittsburgh, I know that "the City" is not on the scale of Pittsburgh and certainly not the size of the major US cities.
But, as far as I can tell, poverty is not exclusive. Extending across ethnic, racial and gender barriers, it robs people of their dignity.
I am finishing up exegesis on a sermon on Luke 15 for an assignment, so my focus really is on the lost. The Mission, houses men and women and children, in short and long term programs, as well as offering medical and dental clinics.
I visited their blog, http://lifeatwsrm.blogspot.com/.
One of the entries by a staff person, was entitled "Eyes Front." I lift it up to you and also lift up the work of shelter projects across our country that are in many ways the hands of God for the least and the lost.
"Did you ever walk by someone who lives on the street and look the other way, hoping they wouldn’t notice or, God forbid, speak to you? The temptation to react this way is huge, and society teaches us that this is an acceptable reaction to poverty and homelessness.
We’ve become so comfortable with poverty and homelessness that we hardly notice their end results. As a former resident of Chicago and Boston, my ability to see without noticing became finely tuned, although having this ability didn’t alleviate the nagging feeling there was more going on here than meets the eye.
I have the opportunity to interact and work with our clientele on a daily basis and I can tell you that each one of them has a life history filled with many of the same things as you and me. The biggest thing that usually separates us is a few decisions along that way the either of us could have made differently.
I recently had the privilege of having my teenage step-son (Daniel) spend a day with me at the mission. During that day, he spent several hours working with one of our clients (Don) and the two of them developed a real connection. As we were driving home that day, Daniel said to me “I really like Don. We had a great time together, he’s a great guy!” I agree; I’ve had the opportunity to get to know Don and he is a special person. The next thought that came into my head was: how would Daniel and I have reacted to Don if we’d met him on the street instead of at the Mission? It’s upsetting to me that there was a time when I would have discounted Don as a person and just walked past him while trying to avoid looking at him.
We can’t all work at a rescue mission, nor should we, but there is more you can do. I invite you to take a moment to consider your reaction to poverty and homelessness, based on only one idea: there’s a real person of God’s creation under the rags, the smell, and the dirt. It’s very likely that this person under the rags is someone that could have a real impact on Daniel, me, and you if given the chance. You don’t have to give money, cars, or even your time to our clients or those still on the streets, but I invite you to consider giving them your love, respect, and most of all, your prayers. Look them in the eye and say hello, you might be surprised at the good it does for both of you."
- Scooter Haase, Operations, WSRM