Saturday afternoon I decided to go to the mall. It was as if I could hear the Christmas music coming from that direction and had to go and see if that was where the music was coming from.
Sure enough. It was.
As I was walking around the mall, I grabbed a Starbucks, went and sat in a chair and called a few friends. I wanted to let them know that Christmas had arrived. When my phone calls were finished I walked through all the stores. So many people were out shopping and it seemed as if the spirit of peace on earth and good will to men had arrived early, and on that happy note I decided it was time to go home.
Anyway, as I was leaving I saw a woman sitting on a chair selling something when my heart heard, “Go talk to her” and before I had time to say, “no” to myself…I was standing in front of her kiosk asking, “So, how’s your evening? Are you enjoying all the people in the mall?”
“Yes.” She replied.
“How long have you worked here?” I asked.
“Not long.” She replied.
Our conversation was easy and we talked about everything from where she came from, to how many children she had and then I saw it. Her eyes went from open to trusting. That’s the best way I know how to describe what I saw. She trusted me and said, “I don’t know why I’m telling you this but… I’m homeless.”
She then told me her story, and like so many people I’ve met in her situation her story seemed to be the same except she told me more. She started to share that has time goes on, and one can’t find a job, one comes to accept that their car is their place of residence. She was sharing how she learned how to survive and how when she would meet others who were in her situation she would tell them where to shop. How to shower, and as I listened to her speak she said, “The only thing that happens to someone that is tragic, is after they’ve been homeless to the point where they can survive, they get embarrassed to tell people. We stop going to places that we’re invited, because it’s much like an illness— when one looks healthy, but then shares they have cancer there’s a silence that falls over the room, and the same goes for those who are homeless. Silence falls.”
For the past few days I’ve been thinking about this woman and yesterday I reached out to a young woman, who I know works in the mall. The funny part is I actually met this young woman a few months back at the DMV and she invited me to her church, and because of her heart, I went and met all those she goes to church with. So, yesterday I reached out to this young woman and asked if her church could help her, and this was her message back to me:
“Okay, Gina. I would love to meet her and send her flowers or something. Maybe we can get a group of women together and take her to lunch and go on a prayer walk or something. Let me know what you think would be a good idea. We’re having a midweek service if she wants to come too. Please give her my phone number.”
What I loved about her response back was she wasn’t thinking, “Okay. Let me ask those in the church if they know anyone who is hiring or I’ll pray for her.” No, this young woman thought about the things that make people know they are valued. Friendships, flowers, eating with friends, moments.
And, what I learned from this woman is the only thing she seemed to miss were the friendships of others, because she never once said to me, “I wish I had a big house. I wish I had a nicer car. I wish I had better clothes. I wish I had more food.”
No, she didn’t.
She said, “I miss having friends.”
One of my favorite reminders of what a true friend is resides within the Bible and reads: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in..” Matthew 25:35
My hope in sharing this story is that each person who reads this will become HOMELESS FOR THE HOLIDAYS… and all year-long! Now, I don’t mean I want you to give up your home and live on the streets or within your car, “NO!” What I mean is whenever you see someone who is homeless, don’t fear them. Do not look away because you think that if you look at them YOU HAVE TO GIVE THEM MONEY! You don’t have to give them money. You don’t have to give them food. YOU DON’T HAVE TO GIVE THEM ANYTHING…
ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS…
If you’re walking by, reach out your hand and introduce yourself.
Ask them their name. Nothing is more comforting to a person than to hear someone say their name.
Pray for them. Don’t tell them you’ll pray for them. JUST DO IT!
And, yes.. if you’re walking by with a sandwich and “half” some left… offer it up, because that’s what friends do for their friends.
Yes, this holiday season and beyond please join me and become Homeless, because when we embrace the love that arrives within the smile of a new friend…
There is where peace on earth and goodwill to us arrives!
NOW, ONWARD TO THE HOLIDAYS!