"Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." Matthew 25:40
I can't believe I was so afraid. I've done many fearful things throughout my life; I've served in post earthquake Haiti, the DR Congo, one of the rape capitals of the world, in India where a dark skinned woman isn't always safe, in post war Kenyan mountains and even behind bars in Dallas prison, so I was surprised of the depth of my fear handing out sandwiches to the homeless in downtown Dallas.
Our plan for Christmas this year was to travel to downtown Dallas and serve the homeless. We would pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a drink and dessert and find the homeless to hand them out.
We got in the car, prayed and with great excitement we headed downtown. The first homeless person was a man under a bridge, we asked him his name and if he wanted something to eat, he said yes, we handed him the bag and drink and took off to the next next bridge or person without a home. Simple enough. Our plan was in place.
The one thing we had not anticipated was our fear. Our car was heavy with fear, thanks to too many episodes of Law and order and Criminal Minds. At the stop of every bridge and homeless person, a negotiation would take place; whether my husband would go out alone, me and my husband, my husband and my oldest or the twins and my husband. We were pitiful. At one negotiation, my husband ended up going alone. We spotted a man under a cold bridge; we weren't sure if he was sleeping or dead. We called out to him and he neither moved nor responded. We were all scared to approach him. We parked the car and my husband approached him. Come to find out, he was asleep, hungry and cold. He was beyond grateful by my husband's presence. Their gratitudes were humbling.
Besides our cowardice fear, the other thing that surprised me was the homeless's need for touch. The smell of urine and body odor, missing teeth, unkept appearance and visible intoxication were undeniable but in the midst of all the externals they would reach out for us to touch them. One man went around and hugged every last one of us. Another would not let go of my husband's hand from the driver's seat. And another asked for us to take a picture with him, mind you he had no camera (pure comedy). Their need for touch reminds me of a lesson The Lord has been teaching me over and over again: we need each other, we need community, we were created to be known, to be loved and to be touched both physically and emotionally.
I can't say we're over our fear of the homeless but we have taken a first step towards conquering those fears.
Needless to say, We have experienced an unbelievable Christmas this year. I believe if Jesus were to be born in this day and age, we would find him under one of those cold bridges. Let us continue to serve the least of these as if we were serving Jesus himself.