Have you ever stopped to have a conversation with a homeless person? I can’t remember the last time I did.
The sound of a harmonica could be heard from somewhere on the busy high street. The hustle and bustle of evening shoppers and the start of a Friday night. Joel and I went to get some groceries from the shop. I was busy putting things in the basket but Joel’s mind was somewhere else. He was transfixed at the chiller lined with the remaining sandwiches of the day.
“I want to give the guy outside a sandwich or something.”
Puzzled, I didn’t know who he meant as I didn’t pay attention to anyone before entering the shop (awful really, that my mind is more concerned with dinner than other people at this point!). Guessing that Joel had seen a homeless person I laughed and said:
“Are you sure they are homeless? I mean, it could be a bit insulting if not!”
Yep. That’s my cynical sense of humour. Awful. Not sure why Joel married me at times like this… I made him feel uncomfortable as he started having second thoughts that maybe he had made a mistake or misjudged the guy he saw.
Putting my hand on his arm, I felt convicted and reassured him.
“Buy the sandwich. You have a heart for the homeless. You felt convicted. This is your ministry. Go.”
Joel opened the chiller, grabbed a cheese ploughman’s sandwich after debating what an all-round good sandwich would be. He bought some water and proceeded to the checkout with me and my basket. Once again, I felt awful feeling our heavy basket. I thought about the ‘all-you-can-eat’ places that we take for granted here in the UK, when so many people in the world cannot afford a decent meal. It makes me feel sick thinking about it. We are gluttonous, but yet we would not admit to gluttony or greed.
After we left the store, Joel and I approached the man that he had noticed but I had missed in my hurried entrance to get food. Reaching out a hand to the homeless man, Joel asked him how he was doing.
“Alright yeah”, the man replied, clutching his harmonica.
“Have you had anything to eat?” Joel asked.
“Yeah, I had a bit earlier, thanks mate.”
Joel gave him the sandwich and water all the same and the man accepted. I offered him an apple or two, in which he only took the one. Joel introduced us and the man introduced himself and told us a bit about where he would try and find shelter. He asked us if we had finished work for the day and if we had any plans tonight. We had a really nice conversation with him and he shook both of our hands when we said goodbye.
It was lovely to be with Joel and to embrace his heart for the homeless. I’m not sure if it is because I am a female with an overly active imagination or what, but I am a little scared of approaching the homeless. I bring my judgmental attitude, prejudices and stereotypes which often means I look away or feel uncomfortable. The truth is, the man on the street that we met is made in the image of God. We should love and embrace him the same as anybody else that we would come across.
I want to ditch the stereotypes and abandon my fears. I want to be aware of those around me who may be on the streets. Joel has a heart for the homeless. He longs to reach out and help them, love them, care for them. He is light to those who find themselves in a very dark place for the time being. He is Christ’s hands and feet in our city.
When you next pass a homeless person, remember that they have a story, a personality, emotions and they are made in the image of our Creator. Christ died for them too. God sees them and watches over them. He moves our hearts, our hands and our feet to love, show mercy and act justly with kindness to all of those we meet. The homeless are not our enemies. Even if they were, we are still called to love them (Matthew 5:44). Let’s treat them as human beings. Let’s treat them as friends. Let’s love them as ourselves, rather than ignoring them completely by walking past them as if they didn’t exist.
Joel’s heart for the homeless has given me a fresh perspective of what it means to follow Christ. It starts with loving the Lord and loving our neighbour. Everything else flows from this. Let’s be praying always for those who are sleeping rough or struggling for food. It’s happening on our doorsteps. Let’s not ignore our neighbour anymore. Let us love one another. We can love one another because it was God who first loved us (1 John 4:19).