A homeless friend of mine is getting some much needed help for a few months, and before he left town, he asked me to go and get his things from the job site.
After a 45-minute wait, I was loaded up with all of my friend’s worldly possessions and walking back from UNCG to the church. The pack was bulky and probably thirty pounds, plus he had a smaller bag, a garbage bag with some dirty clothes, and his hard hat and vest.
All he had in the world fit on my back and in my arms. And pretty soon, it got heavy. The pack straps bit into my shoulders and my neck muscles knotted up. I wanted to shift the things in my arms but both hands were full. And it was a long mile back to the church (if it was even a mile).
As I carried his things (quite an interesting load for a guy in a polo and loafers to be carrying), I had a taste of what his every day was like. I imagined walking home at the end of a long day of construction, passing by hundreds of college students and campus staff, and going to a camp in the woods (or a lean-to in an alley) to “rest” for the coming day. I was struck by the resilience and courage it must take to keep your head up, keep working, to simply survive on the streets.
God has grown my respect for the men and women who come to our church on Wednesday nights. Sure, many of them have struggles and addictions, but who doesn’t? And yet despite lives that are filled with opportunities for hopelessness and self-destruction, most manage to come to our church with a smile, with thanks in their heart for the meal, and to keep moving towards the coming day.
Walking a mile in my friends shoes continued to open my heart to God’s work among the forgotten that we see everyday.