“Kindness is a language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” – Mark Twain
I put my purple vest on, embroidered with “Jesus is Lord” and stepped onto the street to minister to the homeless. The unclean smells and dirty concrete was all I saw, at first. Rubbish crowded the sidewalk and smoke crowded the air. It was a place of desperation, reeking of hopelessness, and stale ambition. Then, in between the withering trees, I saw people. Men and women carrying sacks, their entire belongings. Their faces were enough – death had robbed them of life and purpose and promise, and the only thing dragging them forward was a drug. What a terrible place to be, so eager for rescue but so unknowing of their escape, their salvation. Homeless and hopeless – these were the sorrowful words tattooed on that part of town.
I came towards a man, who was holding a paper cup of coffee, which I observed as the only neat part of his rumpled appearance. He was leaning against a brick wall, reading a day old paper, pretending to be fine. We both knew he was not, so I stepped into depths of discomfort, and made simple conversation. The offer of a church service with a free meal afterwards did not lift him away from the curb, and as he shakily walked away to get more coffee, I wondered at how enticing a little white building would be in a world where you’ve only known sadness. I wonder.
The next man I walked towards agreed for prayer, as his leather jacket did not suggest. With half of my hand but all of my heart, I did my best to encourage him, which was, at that point, smiling a Jesus smile while my friend prophesied kind words over him. He soon drifted away, uncertainty following him down the street, and I again wondered at where he was going and why he would not come back, to the only church on the street.
Something burst inside me, and tears began to streak my bare face. It was too much, to see pain consuming God’s beloved, like a disease that has no right to spoil such pure creation. I was overwhelmed and desperate to change it but unable to express the Good News in any other way than a soft smile. A lengthy handshake, a gentle wave. I hurriedly wiped my tears away, to join my friends and a homeless man they were already ministering to. Right then they asked if they could pray for him, and it was his response that slightly ripped my heart apart.
This man had been through hell. Left alone, abandoned, a reject. He had seen death brush by him, and seen it breath upon others. No hope, no rest, no love. He was covered in clouds of smoke and given not the fresh air he needed to breathe. Sorrow, sadness, and suffering. He lived in fear and fake comfort that would disappear repeatedly and unannounced. A broken family, a crippling community, and no knowledge of a love that never ends.
And yet when they asked to pray for him, he replied: “Nah, I think you should pray for the girl over there. She’s cryin, ya know. Can’t help but notice it, you gotta help the people that are cryin.”
There was something about his reply that made me weep for hours afterwards, and I think it was this: His love is not given to us by how ‘deserving’ we feel // it is a free gift // and all we have to do is say yes.