Hello, OSSS readers. It’s Lindsay back with you again today, sharing some Sunday inspiration.
Several years ago I found myself driving downtown to drop my older brother off at The Road Home homeless shelter where he was currently “living.” He was going through a pretty rough patch of life (understatement). He stayed at the homeless shelter on and off for several years.
During one of his better periods of life (definitely relative–he wasn’t at the homeless shelter or in jail) I was talking to him about his experiences being homeless and relying on strangers to survive. His experiences taught me a lot about what life is really about and made me hyper-aware of how I treat other people, especially strangers.
There seems to be a certain stigma (judgement) placed on the homeless, the poor, the uneducated. The idea that maybe they “deserve what they get” and their choices put them where they are. That perhaps they are “less than” and maybe not worthy of some of the things life has to offer. Although sometimes it is certainly true their choices may have contributed to where they are, I think it’s important to remember how close we ALL are to being homeless, or poor, or in need of help from others.
I think sometimes we over-complicate what life is all about. If we were to boil life down to one main purpose, it would be to learn to love one another. To learn to love like God loves. Without reservation, without conditions, without judgement. To learn to love. To really love. And to treat each other accordingly. That’s it.
My brother said one of the worst parts of being homeless, of begging for money and food on the streets, wasn’t the hunger or the withdrawal from drugs, or the fear of being beaten up or arrested. The worst part was how people treated him. Some with disgust, some with judgment, but even worse, some acted like he didn’t even exist. They ignored him like he wasn’t even there.
One of my favorite books of all time is “Tattoos on the Heart” by Gregory Boyle. In it he says “Here is what we seek: a compassion that can stand in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it.” I think we can substitute the word “poor” with any other word as well. The poor, the homeless, the mentally ill, the addicts, our neighbor, our friend….
To stand in awe at what other people have to carry rather than stand in judgement. If there’s one thing I know, it’s that we ALL carry something. That we all have struggles. Some more visible than others. What would the world be like if we recognized one simple truth? That life is hard for EVERYone and if we stood in awe at what each other person has to carry, and learned to love like God, the world would change. Life would change.
We belong to each other. And God expects us to take care of each other. He answers prayers with other people. He relies on us to get each other back to him. We’re all on the same team here. And he put us all here together for a reason. No one person is any more important than another. God loves equally and unconditionally and he wants us ALL back. Glennon Melton said “I am confident because I believe that I am a child of God. I am humble because I believe that everyone else is too.”
To be clear, when I say God expects us to take care of each other, that doesn’t necessarily mean just giving money to the homeless or poor. Or handing out material possessions to each other. Although that is part of it. I think it’s far beyond that. God simply expects us to love. To take each others’ hands, to walk side-by-side, and to show each other the way. And to take someone else’s hand when we we’re the ones that need to accept the help.
One of my favorite stories in “Tattoos on the Heart” is about a boy named Pedro (a gang member) who had a dream Gregory Boyle (the author) was in. Boyle says “And in this dream, Pedro and I are in this large, empty room, just the two of us. There are no lights, no illuminated exit signs, no light creeping in from under the doors. There are no windows. There is no light. He seems to know that I am there with him. A sense, really, though we do not speak. Suddenly, in this dark silence, I retrieve a flashlight from my pocket and push on it. I find the light switch in the room, on the wall, and I shine this narrow beam of light on the switch. I don’t speak. I just hold the beam steady, unwavering. Pedro says that even though no words are exchanged, he knows he is the only one who can turn this light switch on. He thanks me for happening to have a flashlight. He makes his way to the switch, following the beam with, I suppose, some trepidation. He arrives at the switch, takes a deep breath, and flips it on. The room is flooded with light….
And with a voice of astonishing discovery, he says ‘And the light….is better….than the darkness…..As if he did not previously know this to be the case.”
Boyle goes on to say “Possessing flashlights and occasionally knowing where to aim them has to be enough for us. Fortunately, none of us can save anybody. But we all find ourselves in this dark, windowless room, fumbling for grace and flashlights. You aim the light this time, and I’ll do it the next.
The slow work of God.
And you hope, and you wait, for the light–this astonishing light.”
Our job isn’t to save each other. Our job is to love each other. And to shine the flashlight for those who need it. And be willing to follow the flashlight when others hold it up for us. We’re each responsible for turning on our own light switch. But NONE of us can do it alone. We need each other. We need others’ flashlights and we need to hold up our flashlight for others. We belong to each other. And every single human on this earth regardless of who they are or the choices they have made is entitled to love. Love from God. And love from us.
For more inspirational posts like this one, here are a few recommendations:
What Is Love? An Inspirational Series