I was leading a bible study several years ago and wanted to teach my ladies group to appreciate their lives a little more and, frankly, to get them to take their eyes off of their own problems that seemed to be the center of their world. While, granted, some of them did have problems in this world, as we all do at times, it ALWAYS helps, without fail, to encounter those less fortunate than ourselves. When I say encounter, I don't mean run across a news story or pass a homeless person on the side of the road. When I say encounter I mean sit next to, talk to, ask one his life story, hold a little child, wipe snot from that little child and love that little child, realizing that they may not have been shown love for some time.
So my group shows up for what they thought was our normal bible study and told them all to go pile in my suburban....we were going for a ride. I had done this before with my own children when they would start acting rotten and it worked wonders to open their eyes to things other than their own wants and needs. I had the same plan in mind for this group of ladies. We head downtown and I am looking for the homeless on the side of the streets and they are no where to be found. I had baked bread and brought coffee and we were going to pass it out to them. Someone on the side of the road finally suggested that we go to the womens shelter up the road. Well I had no idea there even was such a thing. We drove and found The Family Life Center. I had never been there before and was only here this time merely by chance and the advice from someone on the streets. We all piled out of my suburban and by this time it was around 8 oclock at night. We knocked on the locked door and someone came to the door and saw us standing there with all of our snacks and coffee and hesitantly waved us in at such an hour when everyone was settling down for the night. They sent us to the back room where they told us to wait for the women to come down for a late night snack. As we walked down the hallway I glanced into the chapel and saw rows and rows of women sleeping on the hard pews. Once in the back room, I sat and waited with anticipation. ALL of the women with me had never been around homeless women before and I had only been around the ones that lived on the streets. So I think we all had our own ideas of what sterotype of a homeless woman was going to round the corner and eat our snacks. I could tell that we all were a little uncomfortable and completely out of our comfort zone. Most of us lived in middle class suburban communities and many would not be there had I not surprised them with our little downtown drive.
I heard footsteps coming down the hallway. They seemed to be small footsteps and they were running. When they entered the room, I was in complete and utter shock. These little footsteps were from about 10-15 children. They came in hurredly in anticipation of what snacks lay before them that they had been told to come down and eat. Many of them received their snacks and then graciously crawled up into our laps for love and attention. They had great big smiles on their faces as they ate the bread and the cookies that we brought. I quickly realized that we did not bring enough as it was gone in about 2 minutes.
As I watched these children who seemed to be filled with life and love and a sense of hope regardless of their surroundings I was so utterly and completely humbled. How can we complain about our lives and the inconviences that we have when there can stand a homeless child in front of us and greet us with a great big grin when he doesn't know where he will lay his head down at night and when he will get his next meal? What is it that these children know that we do not?
Jesus talked about it....
[ Rest for the Weary ] At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.
As I looked around the room, I noticed every one of the girls that I brought with me were having a one on one conversation with a homeless mother as she struggled through the shame to tell her story simply because someone cared enough to ask. These women were not what anyone invisioned. These women had children. These women had a name and a story and a heart that had been broken from despair of not knowing how to care for not only themselves but their children as well. These women had no one in the world who seemed to care. These women were desperate.
We said our goodbyes and loaded back up in my suburban and headed back to the reality that we all knew. The car was very quiet and everyone seemed to be in a sense of shock from what we just witnessed. We all had pictures in our minds of the little faces that we left behind as we headed back to our homes and our loving families and our warm bed. What was it that we were feeling at that time?
1My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism. 2Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. 3If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," 4have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
5Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?8If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself,"a]">[a] you are doing right. 9But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.
It is completely amazing how what you don't know can hurt you, it can keep you blinded to the truth that is right in front of you. Are we blinded or do we choose to keep the blinders on?
We left there changed that night. Everyone left with great appreciation of the blessings in their lives as the focus was lifted off of themselves and onto another. That is the key!
Now fast forward about 4-5 years....I am now very comfortable going into the shelter. I look forward to what opportunities lay there because I run across someone who seems to be planted right in my path who needs to be blessed in some way EVERY time. I head down the other day to the homeless shelter to lead a bible study for the homeless women. I run across some of the most precious children and hand them a marker and a single piece of paper. I get their mom's consent and I have them write the sentence "I need a Hero." for a future video that I am putting together.
They graciously did as I asked and wrote the sentence and held it up for me to take their picture. I did this to show what adorable kids live in the shelter and really do need a Hero to come in a make a difference in their life.
They were very sweet and yet had a sense of uncertainess about them.
After I took their picture I turned and started talking to their mothers. When I turned around they were all drawing again back on the paper that they had written the sentence on. They were adding their own touches. They were decorating it with what was inside their hearts. Their little spirits started to shine through. This was something they did completely on their own without any prompting from me or anyone else.
As their one little sentence started to turn into an expression of themselves, I noticed that they became more at ease and started warming up to me and laughing and really enjoying this one moment that they stood with a marker and a piece of paper and drew like children do, which ends up being the expressions of their heart.
Here is this little girl that lives with her mother in a homeless shelter and has nothing to call her own and yet when given the opportunity to express herself she draws a heart, a flower and a smiley face.
These children have no less imagination, dreams and desires for their own lives then our own children do.
When given love....when given attention....there is no telling what will blossom out of them that would have otherwise stayed buried.
These girls have only known each other for a few days and yet they seem to have a bond. They seem to cling to their friendship in this time of uncertainty when they both have found the same familiar ground to rest their heads when their worlds are so different.
Who knows how long they will be there.
Who knows how this time in their lives will impact them.
Who knows if these girls will remain friends or what their futures hold.
But one thing they teach all of us....God never intends for us to walk our journey alone. He never intends for us to get overcome by our circumstances. There is always someone who can give hope, or simply just be a friend whether for a few days or for a lifetime. When you have someone to walk along side you, they tend to carry the load with you and it makes it so much easier to bare. That is what these girls do for each other. That is what an Ordinary Hero can do for them. That is what Jesus does for us. And in the end...no matter what the reality looks like....there is joy.
Lord help us learn from them.
And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.