How to talk to a homeless person.

Yes, I'm going to talk about homeless people.  You know, the ones that ask you for money when you just want to go in and buy a coke.  We've all experienced it.  If we're honest (and I'm about to be), a conversation with a homeless person is not the most pleasant experience.

For most of us, the level of communication never goes farther than, "Hey man, can you spare some change?" Then we either lie and say we don't have any or we give them a few coins.  But it's not to help them.  We give to help them get away from us.

On my way to school I pass two gas stations.  Between the two stations, there are roughly 2 to 3 homeless people standing around asking for money on any given day.  And if I have time, I'll watch to see how other people react to their requests for money.  Some completely ignore them.  Some give a few cents.  Some act like they are talking on the phone (I am ashamed to admit I have used this trick too many times).  Why do we fear talking to homeless people?  Sure, a lot of them don't have much work ethic or they spend what money they do make on alcohol.  But lots of people do that, homeless or not.  The only real difference between a homeless person and us is that they sleep on concrete and we sleep on a mattress.

Christians struggle with this one.  I certainly do.  Especially because I encounter homeless people five days out of the week.  A few months back, I had a good discussion with a friend, Jace,  about homeless people.  I've never met someone so passionate for the homeless.  But he was passionate in a practical way.  He had experience.  Through a succession of e-mails, he told me of his homeless friends and how he loved on them.  His advice was simple - just talk to them.  They're human too.

Just talk to them? That's scary.  They're not like me.  They may smell.  I'm in a hurry.  I had more questions.  Talk to them about what?  What if they ask for money?  He proceeded to tell me that homeless people just want you to talk to them.  They don't want to be a project.

So I did.  Jace mentioned the idea of keeping a few cans of chili in the back of my car just for a homeless occasion.  I didn't have to store those cans for long.  Anthony was his name.  I met him at a Shell just down the street from school.  He asked me for money.  I asked him if he was hungry.  And out came the chili.  We sat on the sidewalk with our chili and talked, like new friends.  He is 28 years old and was jumped in the park the night before.  He told me of his family and how long he had been homeless (10 years).  His dad finds him from time to time and gives him money.  He has a driver's license, but only for identification.  He showed me where he slept the night before.  All the while I was holding back tears.

I had a friend that encouraged me to show God's love in a way that I haven't done before.  I didn't do anything special the day I met Anthony.  I just talked to someone that God loves just as much as me.  But it helped me understand God's love a little bit more.  

As a friend, let me ask you - how is God tugging at you to show His love in a way you haven't tried before?


Derek said...

Dude, I love the idea of keeping a can of chili in the car for things opportunities like this. Just as much as Anthony needed food, he needed to be loved by someone. Thanks for this bro.

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