A Walk with the Homeless

Simple plan …take a walk to the local “feed and seed store” for some fresh apple cider — less than a mile of sidewalk but all of eternity in motion.

Just barely out of the driveway and down the first street I pray a simple prayer — “Holy Spirit, fill me…”  — a kind of prayer that also  covers protection and guidance as well in case this little walk gets interesting.

Crossed the bridge.  Passed the projects.

In the distance, I saw a man and a woman with a grocery cart loaded with empty soda cans-now-turned-income-possibility.  Signs pointed to their “less” as an indication  of their “home”.  As I walk closer,   I throw out a —

“Hi !  How are you?”

“I’m blessed,”  he says.

I stop.  “I’m blessed too ! What a great perspective!”, while inside I wondered how he could feel so “blessed” in his “condition.”

But the simple words, “I’m blessed” led to a much longer conversation as the Holy Spirit seemed to whisper to look at this person as if he were Jesus walking down the street.  There was light in his eyes and I knew he was not of this world.  Oh ,  he wasn’t really  Jesus but as he spoke there was something about him and  I knew I had much to learn from him.

Homeless.  Happy.  Blessed.  Not tied to this world.  Content.  Owned little.  Possessed eternity.  Free.  Lived by the daily bread.   Open. Honest.  Realistic.  Eyes open to see the spiritual.  Heart open to all who would engage.

The usual, “where do you live” question didn’t get answered with “such and such a street or subdivision  …you know, the brown house with the green shutters?”  Instead, there was pointing in the direction of a bridge and mention of a camp — a community not made with wood and stone but tents and blankets — a subdivision alright — a division and distinction between what is deemed lower and upper in value and class … of people.

Ironically, this homeless man did look very much like my own flesh and blood brother — the blue-eyed one with the smile as broad as his shoulders.  The more I looked at this blue-eyed  homeless man  in front of me, the more I thought of my own flesh and blood  brother and what if he had ended up homeless.  How would people respond to him on the busy street corner near the bridges of shelter they called ” home”?  Would he be ignored? Laughed at? Assumed an  addict? Judged that  surely it  was his own fault he was in the condition he was in? Would anyone stop to encourage him or feed him or even consider hugging him the way family would? Would people be afraid to touch him at all for fear of disease  or repulsed by the smell?

The eyes — they were smiling blue!  Was it possible that the Holy Spirit allowed me to see the resemblance of my own brother in this homeless man so I would see him through the eyes of family love — God’s family love?  Had God let me borrow His eyes for just a brief moment so I could really see? And was it coincidental that another friend of mine, while having  a conversation with a homeless man just two days earlier,  couldn’t get away from an unsettling thought that he looked just like one of her family members as well?

Family — 2 of my brothers, Dan and the blue-eyed one — Paul, with me and my mom (that would be my husband ducking in the background 😉 (2010)

While washing dishes (so many spiritual insights  come at the sink – moments of life 🙂 ,  that verse washed up   in my mind…

Love your neighbor as yourself.’    Mark 12:30-31

And I thought through the rinsing … “yourself” — my own flesh and blood!  If I love my neighbor as myself — wouldn’t that make this homeless man   my own brother or sister or myself– my flesh and blood.  Isn’t  flesh and blood really all the same?  The address doesn’t change what I’m made of.

Ahhh!!!  Another verse just made sense to me in a whole new way…

Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?       Isaiah 58:7 (NIV)

I had never noticed this before.  Pardon me while I ponder this thought but is the Holy Spirit revealing to us that we are to always look at others as if they were our own brothers and sisters?

There’s another verse that is coming to life for me …

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’  Matthew 25:40

“Brothers of mine”??  Did Jesus just call the least of these His “brothers”?  And I can’t get away from this thought … that homeless man was a brother of mine!  God wanted me to see him as my own flesh and blood and love him in the same way.  We had a  family reunion right on the street corner — hugs and all!

I offered more soda cans — what I had on hand — to stay connected in conversation and story and allow our lives to intersect a little longer.

I walked on to my destination knowing God had already met me on the walk and my destination wasn’t nearly as important as the journey to get there.

Everybody has a story.  Some have homes to share them in.  Some have streets to pound it out on.

Real life is heard in the story and the story is tragically  incomplete if we don’t hear it from many different people  coming  from many different backgrounds.

Wherever you may find yourself–the street, the coffee shop, the living room, the store —  listen for the story …the story your “brother or sister”  is trying to share with you — and love them in their story as much as you love your own.

And the blessing of that homeless man and woman — my brother and sister —  poured out on me that day.

I’m blessed !

Joy Waters Martin

My kids tease me sometimes that my definition of a situation going well is often described as, "It was 'life-giving' " -- meaning, it may have had some conflicts or uneasy moments or stress but all in all , something about it breathed life into the situation and the people involved...something of the heart was moved in a good direction. I'm all about LIFE ... life with my husband, life with 4 adult children, their spouses and 8 grandchildren (to date, that is :), life in our home and life in a wild adventure we tend to label "ministry". In reality , all of these categories mesh together to make up the "organic me". Relational , redeeming and restoring are some of my favorite words and they give life to my soul as I walk it all out with Jesus Christ, the Giver of all life. Profile Photo by: Melody Martin

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  1. Joy – this is so right on and so well written. The transformation that Jesus died to give us starts in our hearts and moves out into communities. It’s a love transformation that will take over cities when the people in then have received a transformation themselves. You definitely have! Come on church, rise up with the glory of the Kingdom of Heaven on you and become a transforming transformer!!!
    It’s all about love, love, love!

    1. praying my heart just keeps getting bigger ! Thanks for the encouragement Kim — Love walking with you !

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