Don’t Wait for Thanksgiving to Offer Kindness to a Stranger

imageI know it’s not thanksgiving yet, but hey, stores already have Christmas trees up, so I hoped you would humor me. Besides, I’m posting this to encourage someone to reach out to those in need this year.

Many people will not be celebrating Thanksgiving or Christmas this year and it isn’t because of a faith-based thing, it’s more of a funds-based thing. They just don’t have the money to buy the food and gifts to celebrate with; or any food sometimes. In fact, they don’t even have a place to live, which as you can imagine, gives them very little to be thankful for.

Today is October 10, 2015; National Homeless Day.

Over a year ago I was moved to write a fictional story about a young man who lived a hopeless, homeless life for several years. I have never experienced homelessness myself but have always felt terrible for those forced to live in the elements, especially in areas where exposure to the cold and snow can be dangerous and even deadly.

Through Nick*, I hoped to portray that not all homeless people are bums or drug addicts. Most homeless are regular folks like you and me who just happened to hit a wall. In fact, all homeless people are human beings made in God’s image, and in that sense I hoped to tug at least one heart long enough for that person to offer a hand to someone in such need.

There was a time in my own life, when as a single mom trying to raise three kids on my own, I had no choice but to work several part-time jobs at a time. The fear of losing just one of those jobs and landing on the street with my family, a very intense fear for me back then, motivated me to do the seemingly impossible, see my kids into adulthood safely on half the income I needed. Today, I thank God He kept me healthy enough to work hard so my kids never lacked a meal or a roof over their heads.

Just before I began writing the book, I heard of real people and families living in several treed acres behind a shopping mall close to my neighborhood. I had no idea for many years there had been homeless encampments so close. Alarmingly, that same scenario repeats itself exponentially all over our county, all over the state, all over the country. In the USA!  This is a real situation for countless folks, including veterans and families with kids! I know this is all over the world, especially with what ‘s going on in the middle east, but I am limiting this article to those we actually walk past and drive by wherever we happen to be, those we can easily reach out to.

Sadly, last year the land behind the mall where these people lived was purchased and those living there had the impossible hardship of finding another place to live, or should I say exist. I always think about them when I drive by that area and see those trees lying on their sides in preparation for land development.

The families with kids have it toughest because their kids can’t go to school without a home address to enroll them. The ones that do get to go to school, often go hungry, don’t shower for days or weeks, and spend their winters wearing inadequate clothing and shoes. As if school isn’t tough enough, especially in middle and high school years, these kids are ridiculed and shamed for not having everyday necessities. What a tragedy. We all know kids can be quite cruel, but then sometimes I wonder if we as adults are any different deep down inside.

We see a homeless person and get “grossed out” because they smell terrible, look grimy and greasy, and we wonder what else they’re carrying around. Regretfully, those thoughts have crossed my own mind and I feel profoundly ashamed for even having them. Researching homelessness for my book opened my eyes to my own pre-judgment and how I have allowed poor initial impressions of someone whose story I don’t know one thing about. I made assumptions in all the wrong ways right down to the person’s intentions and character.

Way back in biblical times things weren’t any different. That’s why James wrote about not seating the fancy-dressed person in the best seats and “hiding” the dirty, smelly person with the ragged clothing in the back of the church. James 2:2-4

Thankfully, God doesn’t see it that way at all and lets us know all over the Bible. Unlike pre-judgmental humanity, He sees us for who we really are because he can see into our hearts regardless of what we’re wearing or how many times we have showered.

Please, let’s be mindful of the way we look at others, and let’s teach our kids to be kind to those who have had a rough time in life . Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner, but you don’t have to wait till then to reach out.  Homeless people are hungry and cold everyday, not only on holidays. Let’s each extend a hand of love and compassion to someone in need, and give a homeless person something to be thankful for this year whether it’s a scarf, a pair of gloves, warm socks, a cup of coffee, or a gift card to a fast food restaurant so they can get a warm meal!

May you be blessed!

*Nick is the main character in my debut novel, Black Coat with a Silver Lining.

By ~ Elizabeth Yalian 2013-2015 ©http://hiseyeisonthissparrow.com

2 Comments

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2 responses to “Don’t Wait for Thanksgiving to Offer Kindness to a Stranger

  1. Birdie

    Christians have repeatedly created more harm in the world then any other group as a whole. Those bible thumbers sit back and watch. Yes homelessness is an epidemic of mass proportions. Those non profit organizations spend less than 10 percent on the cause. Makes you wonder where that money goes.

    The good new is their are warriors of the universe who have been called upon “spirit” or the source or following a coarse to ensure justice for those too afraid, scared, and downright distrusting of those who have financial interest behind the “cause of action”. Look up rat park…..the damage takes time, consideration, compassion and dedication. Homelessness and hunger should never happen across the globe. There is nothing more important to me then trust, when I see the look on the face of a man starving and sad, pushing a cart, my first thought is “where’s God now” and how did he get there. Everyone has a story to tell and reasons of how it got there.

    Tell me? Would you feed a person of different set of values or religion? Take religion out and find how we are all connected. nothing happens by mistake.

    Start with your own family, then your community, teach children how to grow your own food, mini shelters mean the world to those who sleep under a tree. Leave your judgements aside. For “God’s” sake smile at them pretending they don’t exists is like pouring salt on an open wound. Find out if they are hungry or have a warm blanket. The smallest act of kindness can spark a person to help themselves. Just do not forget we are all connected. Think of the trees who support the diseased trees, they don’t question it or judge it…the trees know that they are one giant tree of mother earth.

    Sparrowzfreedom

    • Birdie,
      Thank you for visiting my blog. I must say that I agree with you in that many caused harm in the name of Christ. But to say Christians in general have harmed more than any other group, I disagree. First, to refer to Christians in a general term would be the same as saying that all: name a religion, race, or culture, behave in the same manner. Second, I am not sure how you come to your “created more harm in the world” conclusion.
      I do know that the biblical principles a truly devoted Christ follower supports have caused a great deal of good in the world. For instance: The constitution our country is supposed to governs itself by comes from the biblical principles Christians hold dear, including the rights and the freedom of unalienable dignity as human beings and individuals. Here is another example: Sanctuary cities (they’ve been in the news a lot lately) can be found in The Bible’s Book of Numbers 35:6-34 as cities of refuge. They were initiated by God through Moses to protect anyone who accidently injured or killed another person from the wrath of the victim’s family.
      Christians have given their lives for centuries to improve the lives of people in poverty stricken areas of the world who would otherwise not get medication they needed, or healthy food and clean drinking water.
      Countless orphanages have been opened all over the world to help orphaned children find a home, or at least have a safe home if they are not adopted. Have you ever heard of Amy Carmichael? She took in many children in India who would otherwise have been forced into temple prostitution.
      “Tell me? Would you feed a person of different set of values or religion? Take religion out and find how we are all connected. Nothing happens by mistake.”
      You bet I would, and I have done so, and I still do. Here’s one example: (Not to toot my own horn but because you asked.) I volunteered at a community event for the homeless while they served a typical Christmas dinner five years ago. My 27 year old son had died a few months earlier. I took clothing and shoes from his large closet and drawers there, along with items from my own closets and home including blankets, sleeping bags, and a couple of tents. I purchased (with my own money) and put together dozens of gift bags of personal hygiene items, a snack and some Christmas candy, and tied them with a pretty Christmas bow. As I watched homeless person after person gratefully going through piles of clothing or grabbing gift bags and other items, not once did I ask about their beliefs. It was a gift to me to be able to lighten their hard lives any way I could regardless of their faith. And yes, I also agree, nothing happens by mistake.
      “For “God’s” sake smile at them pretending they don’t exists is like pouring salt on an open wound.”
      I’m also in agreement with you there. It’s one of the main reasons I wrote the book I refer to in the blog post. I wanted to point out to people that a homeless person is just as much a human being worthy of respect and help as anyone else. God is very much in agreement with you about caring for others and feeding the poor. There are dozens of verses in the Bible that say so. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment ever was, His response was:
      ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and, love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27 NIV
      By the way, did you know there’s a verse in the Bible that parallels the above statement you made?
      What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. James 2:14-18 ESV
      I also agree caring for others and offering hope starts small— in our homes, teaching our children that life isn’t about them only, and we must see to it that these things get passed on to our communities.
      “Leave your judgments aside.” Birdie, while you speak of judgment, you ignore the good parts of my post. This post wasn’t meant as judgment on anyone; I was hoping perhaps it would be a reminder to touch at least one heart to bless another person.
      For me Christianity isn’t a religion I blindly follow. Before I was born, I was rejected by my bio father, he insisted my mom abort me or he would leave her, she didn’t so he left. She never stopped resenting me for his negligence. I grew up with severe physical and emotional abuse from her because in her opinion, I had ruined her life.
      I struggled with fear of rejection, fear of abandonment, and continually feeling unloved and unwanted. These strongholds to protect myself were erected in childhood and became a tough wall to penetrate in my adult years. In essence my fears became my bondage. But when it finally sank in that God loves me and proved so with his Son Jesus, and that God accepts me with an open heart regardless of my stupid mistakes, I found the true love and acceptance I longed for in Him. It’s God who chose to relate to me, something I can’t fathom still. He wants a relationship with anyone willing to come to Him.
      I found salvation in Christ when I was 19, but it took me years to reach a level of maturity. (Not that I believe I have arrived, far from it). The above mentioned strongholds kept me from spiritual maturity. (Not an excuse just as fact) I’d tried counseling at different times in my life ,but continued in the false belief that even to God I was not valuable or lovable. It took God’s powerful grace, love, and patience to break through these high walls and to show me that indeed I was worthy of his love. It wasn’t until I could understand his love for me that I was able to experience freedom from the strongholds, and it was because of that freedom I was able to grow and mature as the Christ follower God intended for me to be. And by the way, that’s after I reached my fifties.
      So you see, in my immaturity I too have hurt people as a Christian. I have made stupid mistakes I still mourn. Hurting others happened not by intention, but out of my own inner pain and struggles.
      You will find that many genuine Christians are bruised and hurting people who have found Christ, and like me, struggle to do their best even though they still blow it because they remain human. Then there are many people who think they are Christians because they were born in a Christian home or go to a Christian church who don’t really know what Christianity stands for. Not to say there aren’t those “wolves in sheep’s clothing” the Bible talks about. I happen to know a couple who have caused me more pain than I ever thought I could stand.
      “Christians have repeatedly created more harm in the world than any other group as a whole. Those bible thumbers sit back and watch”
      Seriously, I don’t know anyone who genuinely Loves God with all their heart who sits back and watches evil deeds being done without their heart groaning and their spirit aching. “Yes homelessness is an epidemic of mass proportions. Those non profit organizations spend less than 10 percent on the cause. Makes you wonder where that money goes”.
      Sure, there are those who abuse anything they can get their hands on. Whether it’s a ministry to help the poor, politics, pretty much anywhere there is an opportunity for money you will find people abusing their power to fill their pockets? One of Jesus’ very own disciples, who had witnessed powerful miracles day in and day out for three years, stole from the money meant to feed them and then went on to betray Jesus. It’s never been anything new. Our world is broken in many places and as its inhabitants we suffer those consequences from the broken world and from our own selfish nature.
      For the most part, most of the people I know are genuine people who sacrifice so that strangers have what they need. There are many, many ministries that give and give and give to others without filling their pockets. My husband and I try to support ministries that buy a goat so that a family in Africa, or Columbia, or other needy place on the planet, can sell goat’s milk and make a living that way, or help pay for chickens so that a family can sell the eggs, and so on. We donate to Compassion International so that children from other countries that have no welfare, healthcare or free education can go to bed with full bellies and can get a good education, and can be clothed adequately, and so their families also can get help. And by the way, many of these people we try to help aren’t Christians.
      Perhaps you too have been deeply wounded by those going under Christ’s name, Birdie. If that’s the case I truly am sorry there haven’t been more people in Christ’s name who offered balm to a wound, a kind word, or a loving hug when you most needed it. Please don’t assume every person claiming Jesus’ name to be the same because we are not the same.
      I’m really am glad you took the time to write. There’s so much good that can be done in this world even by Christians! I close with this. God loves you more than I can tell you. May your day be filled with peace, kindness, and love!
      Elizabeth

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