I can talk a mean talk. But I still have trouble backing it up.
Thursday night I went to an event put on by Catalyst at Life in Deep Ellum (it's a church). Life is less than three blocks from the location of the future Opportunity Center of CitySquare. It's on the edge of South Dallas and Deep Ellum, a key area in the fight against poverty. The Catalyst event was an event for meeting and networking with young Christian leaders from around the Metroplex. I went with my friend Scott McClellan who heads up the Echo Conference.
As we walked in, a homeless man stopped us to ask for some money to stay at the shelter. Apparently at the shelter he was going to, it's free for a certain amount of time, but then you must pay to stay. It's not much--10 bucks--unless it's under 30 degrees with a windchill closer to 15. I only had a few cents so I offered it to him. Scott offered some cash. Then we went inside feeling good about ourselves.
During the event, I did a lot of talking about CitySquare and the great things we're doing helping neighbors get off the streets and back into self-sustainability. One guy asked me if it's hard working in a job that takes such an emotional toll. His friend asked if my coworkers and I viewed homeless people differently when they asked for money. I said that for many of us we've become less sensitive. I said acknowledging a person's humanity is the most important part.
Then we talked for a while longer before the event was over.
To show how thick-skulled I am, I didn't think about last night again until I was driving back to work from my eye appointment today. It was very cold last night, so my mind went to the guy who had asked for some money. I wondered if he was able to get into a bed last night where it was warm. Then it hit me. It hit me hard. I mean real hard.
Every day I proclaim to people the good news that we are called to help our neighbors who are in need here and now. Being with Jesus is not some future moment when we eventually get to heaven. God's kingdom is realized when we do as Jesus tells us in Matthew 25: Feed the hungry, give the thirsty a drink, clothe the naked, care for the sick, visit those in prison. And yet, I went to an event full of professing Christian leaders in our community, and we had coffee and music and heat.
That man should have come in with Scott and me as our guest of honor. His belly should've been warmed by coffee, and he should have gained enough money to pay rent on a new East Dallas apartment for the first month. It's so obvious now.
This is already too long, but I want to make my point. I am a hypocrite. That's easy. And you may say, "Well, you gave him some money and helped him, so that was good." But did I really "acknowledge his humanity" when I left him in the parking lot on a freezing night? You may say, "Well, it would just get complicated." That's exactly right. It's always complicated, and that's never a good excuse. Just like the picture on Life's wall, you get wet when you hold the umbrella over someone else's head, and that's a good thing.
I don't know whether the man made it into a bed last night, and I don't know if he'll be warm tonight. All I know is that I have an obligation, just like each of us, to fight for a person who is cold and without a roof over his head. I pray that tomorrow night I can be faithful.
I want my words to come later if at all, and my actions to be the story that is told.