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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Someone's Child...

I watched my six year old son hug a homeless man. I told the kids to say goodnight, and Andy instinctually ran to give his new friend a hug around the leg. His friend grinned and then said, "wait", and slowly sits in a chair...reaches out...and closes his eyes taking in the full embrace of my sweet child. It is long and tender. The funny thing is that Andy doesn't ever give long hugs...but somehow deep down he knows.
As we walked through the doors we greeted friends that were serving the evening meal. People we know...people we already love. Even though it is 7:30pm on a school night I brought my 11 year old daughter, and my 6 year old son. My husband stayed home with our sick 9 year old boy. We've done this project several times, and they're both sad because they know what they're missing. We probably won't get home until after 10pm, but it is a sacrifice I don't even think twice about because each time we do it...it changes all of our hearts.

We grab a plate of food and look for a table without volunteers so that we can spend as much time as possible loving these strangers. If I were walking in their shoes, I probably wouldn't try to make eye contact either. It's hard, even for them, to accept what's given. They know they haven't earned it. They know they have nothing to give in return. I'm sure they question our motives. "Are they judging us...our decisions...our circumstances? Can they tell if we are unclean, will it repel them? Will they think we aren't intelligent? Will they be afraid? Do they assume we are on drugs or drink? Without first earning our trust, will they expect us to tell them our story?"
I introduce the kids to Robb and Paul. Robb is disheveled...but thoughtful...slow to speak...and kind. Paul is tidy...but a little manic...hard to talk to. None of us knows where to start. They talk about articles they read during the day. Hannah seems a little uncomfortable around Paul, but at peace with Robb. When it seems like everyone is almost done eating Andy asks to play Jenga. I try to bring along things to bridge the gap. Things that make everyone feel normal...at ease.

One year when the kids were really little I brought paper and markers. After dinner I watched as six homeless people lay on the ground with my kids coloring and drawing. Everyone had smiles on their faces as they chatted away. I didn't intrude. I didn't want to break the magic. I just watched. My kids asked me that night as we headed home, "Where were the homeless people?" I fought back tears as I tried to explain how God used them that night to help heal the hearts of troubled, lonely people.
Paul was working the room. He doesn't sit still for long. As we play Jenga Andy is the supreme host. He passionately includes Robb. Everyone loves Andy because of his ability to do this. He never meets a stranger, and he genuinely loves everyone. Before Robb makes a move, Andy teases him, "No not that one...the tower will fall!" Robb grins and does as he pleases. Andy laughs and makes a big deal over how good Robb is at this game!

Hannah and I leave Andy and Robb to chat and build things out of the fallen wooden blocks. Our time is almost done, and I want to meet more people. We find another table with a white woman in her 50's and a young Hispanic man in his 30's. They've bonded on the streets, and take care of each other. Hannah is an avid soccer fan and quickly prods Santos into a conversation about the sport. He dramatically talks about his favorite teams, and playing ball when he was a kid. Two sticks at each end of his yard were the goals. All afternoon everyday he and his friends would play. Hannah is riveted, and regrets that we don't have time to go outside and kick the ball with him. We have to come back Mom...we have to!

I'm chatting with the woman, and since I'm bad with names, I've already forgotten. I feel guilty for this. She lives her life nameless...and now I've forgotten too. She tells me how before she met Santos she was attacked many times on the streets. She lost her job a few years back. Didn't have much saved. Traveled to another state to try to start over. Money gone...car goes next...now she lives hand out to hand out. She wants to believe that maybe because of her strong faith, God put her on the streets and is using her to reach out to other homeless people. She clings to that belief. "Every time I have a need...it is met. God has been faithful...but it's hard," she says.

We clean up and watch them make their palates on the floor. They feel more comfortable with us now, and each face beams with thankfulness. They ask us to come back...we say, "We'll try."

The kids and I get in the car and start our drive home. Hannah says, "Mom, Paul was strange and there were moments I felt uncomfortable there, but I'm so glad we went." I told her, "Whenever I'm in a situation like that I tell myself...this is someone's child.

A mom gave birth to this person, had dreams for this baby. I imagine that each person there is really you. My baby lost in the world...no home. If I were in heaven, and you were in those circumstances, I would want someone to love you not out of pity, but because human beings need to be loved." The car was dark, but I could see her shoulders shaking and the tears glistening on her cheeks. I reached out and took her hand, and it was silent the rest of the way home.

I tucked Hannah and Andy in bed that night, and Hannah reached out for a hug and pleaded with me, "Please Mom...we have to go back."

"My father has blessed you! Come and receive the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world was created. When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat, and when I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I was a stranger, you welcomed me, and when I was naked, you gave me clothes to wear. When I was sick, you took care of me, and when I was in jail, you visited me." Then the ones who pleased the Lord will ask, "When did we give you something to eat or drink? When did we welcome you as a stranger or give you clothes to wear or visit you while you were sick or in jail?" The king will answer, "Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me." Matthew 25:34-40

*Our church hosts a group of homeless people for one month every year. It is a part of a program called Hotel De Zink run through an organization called InnVision. For more information click here http://mppc.org/calendar/hotel-de-zink.

46 comments:

Lee the Hot Flash Queen said...

That is a wonderful post!

April said...

Oh boy! Now I'm crying. Not JUST because I'm in total agreement, but because I've been homeless before. I was, thank God, never on the streets. I was in a shelter by myself for a while and then able to live in a family shelter with my first 3 children. I feel compelled to write about a day in the life.

Also, my father was homeless for an extremely long time... about 10 years and, literally, on the streets. Sleeping in the woods, refusing to go to shelters because they were all "dry" shelters. And because he's a (severe) alcoholic, he always refused to go in, even during the very cold New England winters.

Thank God I wasn't in my situation for very long and had a LOT of support from people like you. :-) And what an amazing family you are and an amazing mother you are for teaching your children that ALL people need to be loved. :-)

As I said, I do feel so compelled to write about my experience and I'll also link to your post so my readers know what made me open up. :-) Thank you!!

our b life said...

I find it very inspiring what you are teaching your children. To find compassion, hope and love for all human kind.

What an amazing experience. You probably don't know how you and your family have touched those people forever.

The best feeling is when you feel you got more out of the experience than the experience itself!
Great post.

5thsister said...

A very powerful and moving post. Thank you for writing this.

Ms Bibi said...

So moving. You have me in tears.

What an amazing thing you and your family are doing. I wish more families with children were involved like this. Then there wouldn't be so much senseless bullying and hate.

Corrie Howe said...

I think this is great. I love the ideas of bringing things to bridge the gap. Your children are not only blessed but a blessing.

Raoulysgirl said...

Beautiful post. If more people in this world saw the beauty in others that you do, it would be a much better place indeed.

JennyMac said...

How incredibly moving and well written. This will be one of my favorite posts of yours. Bravo.

Ed Adams said...

God Bless You. This is truly a wonderful thing to do.

Tiffany said...

Thank you.

Cynthia@RunningWithLetters said...

"Where were the homeless people?"

"She lives her life nameless...and now I've forgotten too."

Powerful lines.

We have a similar program here in VA called A Night's Welcome--churches take turns hosting homeless people for the night from Nov-March, so no one has to spend one cold night out on the street without dinner. Our former church participated and our family has experienced a couple evenings very similar to what you describe. I wish our new church was a part of the program--I'd love to do it again.

Thanks for shining a spotlight on this important issue...

Frau said...

What a moving story you are teaching your children probably the most important lesson by going there. I applaud you and your husband and other for being so generous to those in need.

MJ said...

I am in tears here at work. The compassion and understanding that you are sharing with your children is a beautiful thing. You are right, we all are someone's child - in more ways then one.
Bless you and your family for providing these people a moment of normalcy.
MJ
Dirty Little Confessions

Judy said...

What a wonderful article and I loved how you highlighted the nuggets for us! Thank you for sharing from your heart and loving others so beautifully.

kys said...

Thank you for sharing this with us. It was very moving. I always say that we should volunteer at our local soup kitchen but we never do. I am really motivated to change that.

Thank you!!

Kimberly-mytoesareclaustrophobic said...

What a blessing you are to your children by teaching them through example. God bless you and yours.

Allyson said...

wow. what a moving post! i have tears in my eyes. what a wonderful program this is! if i were around that area, you can bet i'd be there right next to you hanging out with these wonderful people. your children are very lucky to grow up with these lessons. :)

Erin Lesh said...

Superb writing Holly. I participate in this program too.I took Viv several times as a baby and a toddler. Now we just cook. I really relate to you teaching your children that everyone is someone's baby and we are all god's children.

Thanks, Erin

ScoMan said...

This is a beautiful post and a great project. Youre really making a difference in peoples lives.

Liz in Virginia said...

I love you, Holly!

Tattoos and Teething Rings said...

I love this post- especially the part about realizing that everyone is someone's child. Lovely!

Faith Imagined said...

I am totally crying!

!!The Obnoxious SAHM!! said...

What a wonderful post. You guys are so wonderful. I am so glad that I call you ladies friends.

You go girls. (high fives)

Jenni Jiggety said...

That was really truly WONDERFUL to read...

Sharon said...

I was by earlier but was rushing out the door so I didnt have time to comment. What a great thing your church does. What a great thing you do with your kids. One thing that never ceases to amaze me in my 8 years at the shelter, is how open and intuitive kids can be. It means so much to the people you sit with. Some who have kids of their own that they wont get to see. When we have volunteers in, the residents talk about it for weeks afterwards. Its a wonderful experience for everyone involved, and I've seen first hand the change these exsperiences can generate.

DiPaola Momma said...

Let me choke back some of these tears... WOW I just.. well don't have words.. and for me that is HUGE! I want this for my kids. I want it for all children, that they should know the value of the forgotten and the true meaning of giving thanks. Thank you

Two Normal Moms said...

Wow. Wonderful post. And what a great parent. Awesome post.
***Ally

Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog said...

I am so glad I read this tonight. I feel that each of us is so close to that brink, yet most of us don't realize it. One tragedy too many, a couple of bad bits of luck, and any of us could find ourselves in that situation. Knowing how close we are to it ourselves makes it all the more poignant to read this post...

I often think that if politicians and world leaders were to remember that every person is someone's baby, that the wars would cease and we would figure out that killing each other causes only more pain and problems. Hurting someone only causes them to hurt back. SOMEONE has to be the first one to forgive and let go.

Willoughby said...

What a wonderful post! I don't think there is anything as rewarding as helping others. Thank you for sharing a very touching story.

Sue (Someone's Mom) said...

You should be proud of this post and of what you are teaching your children. We took our kids to a homeless shelter with our church group once (we had to travel to get to one) and all of us were scared to death to go into the shelter. It was all men and we didn't know what to expect. It was such a wonderful experience for all of us. It is also something the kids will never forget.

You wrote this beautifully. There is no greater feeling than doing for others.

Sue

Just A Mom (Call me JAM for short) said...

Never believe it can only happen to "others".

Beautiful post, eloquently said.

Seriously Why Can't I? said...

I was having this same conversation with my book club last night, trying to find ways to get my girls involved. So I spent a good part of the day reseaching opportunities.
The is a beautiful post, one you should make copies of for all your kids so they can see when they get older not only your compassion but your talent too.

Cameron said...

Wow great post, and I think it is spectacular that you are getting your kids involved in something so important at a young age, I wish more parents did that.
Bravo.
Cameron
www.conquerthemonkey.com

Stacy said...

Kudos to you for teaching your kids early on how to be compassionate towards others; something they will never forget & will use always.

Holly said...

That was a beautiful post. Really gives you something to think about - you make some never poignant points - such as "this is someones child." Our church has a night like this and we have not participated in in yet (we've only been going to church for three months)...maybe next time. Love the idea of bringing activities to bridge the gap.

Holly

ShellyInOz said...

Thanks for sharing that Holly. It was very moving. Fantastic that you are teaching your children this valuable lesson!

Kathy said...

Thanks for sharing this part of your life! The religious school that my daughter attends used to house 5 homeless men on Wednesday evening once a month. The kids would have dinner, chat and play games and they came home excited about meeting the people.

Erin M. said...

I am so glad you shared this. I help the homeless indirectly, but have never done something like this. I often hand out packages of crackers and money when I see someone on the side of the road. I send checks to salvation army, etc. and contribute a lot that way (through the mail). But your post moves me to do something more hands on. This is an exceptional post and thank you so much for sharing it.

We all need to remember those less fortunate....

I am in tears. Thank you ladies!

hurstburst said...

I am moved to tears. Thank you for reminding me that as parents we are charged with teaching our children not just about the little things, like clearing your plate and making your bed, but also the big stuff, like the responsibility we all have to care for one another.

Kristin said...

You are teaching your kiddos some incredible life lessons!

LMJ said...

Oh boy, I'm crying now. We were homeless for a few months (thank God) ourselves. I was about 7 or 8. It sucked. Then, a good family picked us up. They were our angels! We will always be thankful to that family who's kids, like yours, were compasionate and kind.

I will definitely teach my daughter as you are teaching your chldren.

Believe me, we never forget what they do for us, even if we don't see our angels ever again.

I Wonder Wye said...

Wonderful boy. So thoughtful. We had so many homeless in DC. I always stopped to talk and give what change I could until one day this 'regular' said to stop giving him change. He said that it meant so much more to him that I'd stop and talk to him and 'treat him like a person,' it made him want me as a friend and that made it feel 'weird' to accept money from me...man that made me tear up...

***Holly*** said...

I am thinking so many things after reading that all I can say is thank you for this post. My opinion: You should absolutely send this to a newspaper or magazine.

Centsational Girl said...

So heartwrenching. I loved this - all of the sentiment. Loved the scripture too.

Jeff Roney's Blog said...

I want to tell you how important what you do here, and I'm a married guy that isn't a Dad. You ladies are great at funny, but this posts and others show your heart, and that is special. As the other posts say, love resonates with people, and it can change and heal others. God is using you to reach many people. I really, really appreciate and enjoy what you do here. Keep it up.

Tater Tot Mom said...

That was a beautiful post and has brought tears to my eyes. What wonderfully compassionate and thoughtful children you are raising. I wish that everyone would be so open minded. Sometimes, all people need is to feel accepted, acknowledged and loved and you certainly did that for them.