Friday, June 3, 2011

The Homeless in Front of You

There is a homeless man we see almost every time we pass a certain intersection.
Sometimes he has a woman with him.  We are not sure if it's his girlfriend, or wife or just another fellow homeless person with him.  In the winter, he had a long, long beard and she had long, straggly, silver hair.  
This spring, they've cleaned up, he now has short clean cut hair and a nice mustache, she has a short cut for the summer. I have to admit they look much more approachable now that they are cleaned up.  

This looks exactly like the sign of the man we see.
 In the past, we've given them water or whatever snacks we've had in the van.
My husband is convinced they would use any money for drugs or booze so he insists we not give them money.
Now, my husband is a counselor for men in recovery and many of them are homeless and he knows all the resources out there available for these kind of people. He believes if they really wanted help, it's there for them.  Not every homeless person, is that person they do a special on TV about, someone just down on their luck, someone like the character played by Will Smith in The Pursuit of Happyness.
In fact most of the homeless, at least in our area are either addicts or mentally ill.
they are homeless.
The kids and I pray for this man (and woman if she's there) every time we pass.
We have stopped and bought them lunch
We've brought them water.
His name is Randy.
He has bright eyes that light up when he smiles.
He says they clean up in the gas station bathrooms and the local Salvation Army lets him shower for free.
He always says "God bless you" to us afterward.
He doesn't have to.
But he does.
He says he doesn't want to follow the rules at the local homeless shelter, and he's right,
it's not a very nice place.
He says he doesn't qualify for any assistance except food stamps, which he shares with his friend,
(the woman)

Aren't we as Christians, as Catholic Christians, supposed to see the face of Christ in everyone?
Not just some people.
Not just in the people we want to.
Sure, it's easy to be busy and miss seeing him on the side of the road. 
But isn't it just as easy to stop and ask if he needs anything? 
Isn't it just as easy to see if he's eaten today?
To ask if he needs water?
To tell him you pray for him every time we pass him?
To let him know he's loved by the way we treat him?
To let him know, that at least that day, someone cares for him?

There was an article last week in our Catholic newspaper, titled "Why be a do-gooder?"
It explained exactly the way I feel.
" We believe that every human being, from conception to natural death, has the inherent dignity of a child of God.  We don't distinguish on the basis of mental or physical functionality, on usefulness to society, on class or race, on friend or foe."

The article went on to talk about Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity: 
"The profundity of Mother Teresa's example is that she doesn't see a dying person: she sees Christ.  And in giving comfort, however briefly, to a suffering person, she becomes the face of Christ, herself."

"Our challenge these days is to remember why we do good.  It is  not for the tax deduction.  It is not to feel good about ourselves.  It is to be the hands and feet and face of Christ to our suffering fellow souls."

Remember the homeless in front of you.
Look for them.
See them.
Pray for them.
Love them and make them feel loved.
You might be the only way they see Christ that day.


  1. Amen and amen again Jamie!

    Thanks for sharing and God Bless you for writing to encourage others to see Christ in everyone.



  2. I am probably more like your husband and would not give money. I am hardened I guess. Thinking they will just use it for the worse and not to better themselves.

    I love the quotes you used.

  3. Well Jamie Jo there is no question that if you and your kiddos stopped for anyone they would be blessed with the beautiful smiles that I think are so special. We have a lot of them in Rocky Mount but not so many in our immediate area. I will try to be more observant and compassionate. God bless you.

  4. We had a big problem with all the homeless in Fredericksburg until they recently made stricter laws about what they call aggressive pan handling. They never demanded money, but you would see them everywhere, all the time. There is a very busy intersection about 50 yards from our house and their always used to be homeless men there. It's scary when they are so close to your home and you just never know how mentally unstable they are or aggressive etc. Eric sees so many aggressive ones in D.C. that he doesn't even want me walking around there without him.

    Because of the possible dangers, we are very careful when we give money or food to the ones down the street so that they don't see where we live. I would love to walk down the street and hand them food or talk with them, but it's just too dangerous. Especially that I am a female and I would have kids with me.

    Anyway, I used to give many of the homeless people money, but now I just pray for them. I donate elsewhere but I know there are huge amounts of support for them here in Fredericksburg.

    Your right that it is important to treat them like Jesus. But also remember that they could very well be insane and dangerous too.

  5. you and your family are a beautiful witness.

    "... And joy is the appropriate attitude with which to help others because acts of generosity are a source of blessing to the giver as well as the receiver." ~ St. John Chrysostom

  6. Jamie, your husband sounds exactly like my husband! These two men would get along!
    But I am with you. I have always felt the very same way. My husband also says that if they really need help, they know where to go. That they just want to use the money for drugs and alcohol.
    But we don't know their situation. Perhaps, for some reason, they couldn't be helped. Maybe pride and shame stand in their way. Maybe in the meantime, they need to believe that there are people that still care.
    Once I overheard a lady giving a homeless guy some money at church:
    "Now you aren't going to use this for drugs, are you?" How tacky! And how humiliating for that man!
    The poors dignity as people have been reduced in so many peoples eyes.I can't imagine Mother Theresa ever walking by anyone, just because she was afraid, turned off by the way they looked or judgmental.

    One short story: in college I took a TV technical class and we shot a "story" about the homeless so we went to a homeless shelter.

    I saw all those people lined up at the shelter (and it was winter and very cold)and only half of them got in. A guy came out and shouted, "Ok, that's it! The rest of you find somewhere else to go!" One young guy in his 20's started to argue, some just looked dejected. I felt a strange sort of guilt sitting in my warm car, watching all this while they walked away in the cold.

    I hope you don't mind if I also write about this on my blog. I'm going to put a reference of this post that you wrote because it's something I feel very strongly about!

  7. Each Christmas my family and I purchase large backpacks - last year it was 10 of them, the next year it will be 11, and so on. Well, we then go to the thrift stores and purchase good, quality woolen sweaters - large ones - sweat pants, flannel shirts, caps, gloves, socks, towels, soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, deoderant, toothpaste, maybe a couple of foodbars, and a wallet with $10 in it. Oh - we also include a bible and a rosary. We put a big, red bow on the outside and on Christmas Eve we go to downtown Toronto and my husband drives slowly around while my son and I look for the homeless we can help. When we find one, my husband puts on his flashers, they stay in the car and I quickly run up to them, hand them the backpack and say, "Merry Christmas! God loves you!" and run back to the car.

    Sure, they might use the money for drugs, cigarrettes, or booze, but that's not in our control. What IS in our control is how we show them the love of Christ.

    And teaching our son how to do the same.

    Whenever we are downtown we see homeless. My son always points them out to us, asks for a dollar and wants to give it to them. And we oblige.

    If they're within our sights, it is our responsibility.

    I will never forget my late husband, who, when he was in the early stages of MS, and was afflicted primarily (at that time) with great fatigue issues - he and I would use a handicapped parking spot (we had a placard) and when he got out of the car and walked into the stores - several people had at times yelled, "Hey! You don't look handicapped to me!!!" Which was true - he didn't. But he was.

    We have to trust God in all things! Prayers for the poor souls in Purgatory for instance - even if the soul is already in Heaven, the prayer is not wasted. Neither is the coin we toss in the homeless' hats.

    God bless your sweet heart, Jamie Jo!

  8. Oh - I forgot to mention that I DO wash all those Thrift Store clothings first! LOL!

  9. I agree and feel the same way. It's not always easy to live but it's the right way to keep trying to live. This is a beautiful reflection. BTW, thanks for the movie recommendation "I am Number Four." It was funny because I almost shut it off in beginning with all the creepy stuff but so glad we waited. It ended up being a great movie and we really enjoyed it!


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