To my shame, I don’t have much experience with the homeless population. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done my share of drive-by feedings that are promptly followed with self-congratulatory pats on the back. I’ve helped shovel truckloads of rice that will hopefully find its way into the mouths of those who most desperately need it. Every year, our family throws down a five-spot to make sure that a cooked bird ends up in the hands of people who might not have one otherwise. As you can see, my unimpressive involvement with the under/non-resourced is woefully lacking, and so it is safe to say that I don’t know much about the dynamics of homelessness. With that disclosure, the last few weeks have been a reminder for me of the question that invariably comes up as a result of my sporadic brushes with homeless people. “What happened to land a person in this situation?”
I’ve been inclined to remember their plight over the last several weeks, because it seemed that I was only a hair’s breadth away from becoming homeless myself. I realize that it never could have or would have gotten to that for us. I have credit cards for goodness sake. Worst case scenario, we would have found a hotel room and stuffed ourselves and all our belongings in it. It would have been a bit cramped, but we’re not unaccustomed to tight living quarters.
And yet, it never came to that. And the reason can be summed up in one word… community.
In fact, this entire move has been one entirely dependent on the people who make up our community. We have been lovingly sent out from the most wonderful group of family and friends who desire nothing but the very best for us, long to see us thrive in our new situation, and have sacrificed in small ways and big ways to send us here. Aside from the multitude of people who are financially supporting us, there were people helping us all along the way. People who helped us pack up our stuff, helped to sell our home (fingers-crossed), bought our cars, prayed for us, helped us sell our furniture, let us store mountains of belongings in closets and attics, threw farewell parties, and have shared numerous encouraging words along the way. While we may have traveled here alone, there is a sense in which we are accompanied by an incredibly loving community.
In the same way that we were lovingly sent, we have also been graciously welcomed by caring individuals on this side of the ocean. In our first month here, three homes were warmly opened to us for a week or longer while we found a place of our own. Of course, moving from one flat to another every week required that our bodies and mounds of luggage be shuttled around in various automobiles – none of which were mine. Meals were bought or prepared for us. Loads of helpful advice has been given. But most significantly, we are finding people that we have genuinely enjoyed being around, and who at least pretend to enjoy our company as well.
As I reflect on those who find themselves homeless, it seems to me that the primary cause is a breakdown of community. Something happens which causes these persons to become disconnected from others in such a way that they don’t have anyone who will welcome them in. Of course, I suppose the Church is meant to be that for them, but that is a blog post or dissertation of its own. This is about me. And the reason, I could never find myself destitute and homeless has nothing to do with my ability (or currently, inability) to provide for myself, and everything to do with the fact that I am part of a community.
When Jesus says, “blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God,” I can’t help but think that part of what the poor (hopefully) discover is that the kingdom is ultimately a community of people who love and care for one another in all sorts of meaningful ways.