We went once again to Love Park to hand out sandwiches, coffee and clothes. I didn’t drive this week, which was nice. For the past couple of weeks, I have felt, to a point, obligated to do so. It was nice to be a passenger in a car with other people and not feel the stress of traffic and directions. I welcome that opportunity when it shows itself.
We arrived with our group and started unpacking our stuff. It is almost funny to watch those who are homeless start walking towards you like you are some superstar or something. They stand in line, patiently waiting for coffee and a bagged lunch. They all usually say thank you and return to a bench where they can sit down and drink a warm cup of coffee. Being a warmer night than usual, there were a lot more people out tonight. I began to look around to see if any of those I had previously talked to were around. It wasn’t long before I saw my friend, Larry.
I met Larry about a month and a half ago. Tonight, he recognized me first and even remembered my name. I was surprised that he had. We sat and talked about life, living on the streets of Philadelphia, and about the future. He was looking to move back to New York where his family lived. He hoped it would be in the next couple of weeks but he wasn’t sure. They had a place for him to stay and a job lined up for him to get back on his feet and return to society in a positive manner. He had a smile on his face that brightened up my night.
As we sat and talked, we looked up and saw all the apartments and office buildings around us. He told me that some of those small apartments cost several thousand dollars a month to live in. I sat and wondered if any of those people who pay that kind of money have a heart for these men and women who have absolutely nothing. Did they have compassion and provide meals when they were able to or were they more concerned about themselves and their several thousand dollars a month rent? It really made me sad to think that an opportunity to help someone right outside your front door was being ignored by those who had the financial ability to do something about it.
I continued to look around and saw some men picking out their benches for the night. A nice, new piece of cardboard would be their mat and a warn towel or blanket would be their sheet. A duffle bag or a rolled up trash bad would be their pillow. Still, they slept.
As I continued to talk to Larry, my buddy, Keith showed up with all smiles. He remembered us and came over and gave me a big hug. The smell of beer was evident and the fact that he had probably not showered in a week overpowered my senses. Still, I hugged him and greeted him with the best smile I could. He sat next to me and began to share how God had provided for him this past week. With every detail, he shared the faithfulness of God. He too was looking to move out of the city just as soon as his financial situation got better (which would be in two weeks or so). His brother (best friend) was with him tonight as well. The friend was so drunk he couldn’t even stand straight. Yet, I could tell that he had heard about us and was grateful that we showed up each week.
After awhile, all three men left and I was left sitting on the bench alone. I began t think about our ministry to these men and women. What if we did not come down each week to serve the poor? What if we only cared about ourselves and never went down to give out blankets and food? Would they be taken care of? Would they have the necessary items to survive on the streets? Would some of them go hungry or even die if we did not go down? My guess is that most of them would be fine. Many have been on the streets a lot longer than we had been going to Philadelphia in the first place. I am just excited that God has allowed us to be apart of these men and women’s lives. It is amazing that I can be Christ to someone simply by taking a couple of hours out of my day and giving my time to those who are less fortunate than I am.