Well, it’s that time of year again. It’s summer time, and the “livin’ is easy.” To many, summer means holidays, weekends at the lake, barbecues and just having a lot of fun with family and friends. But for some, summer is a different experience. To be sure, living becomes easier in some ways. It means being able to hitchhike without freezing to death, which makes getting from town to town easier. It means having the option of sleeping outside if the shelters are full, or if the fear of violence and unpleasant experiences keep them away from the shelters. Summer means not having to wear so many layers of coats to keep warm.
This time of year means something else to those of us in ministry, who meet a greater number of transients as they walk into our offices, looking for help. To be sure, there are as many stories as there are faces. Some are con artists, some are addicts, but some could be you or me, had we made one too many poor choices. It is sometimes hard to know the difference, at other times, easier.
So there they sit, one at a time, in my office. They tell me their carefully rehearsed and well worn stories, (the ones that they have used on any other minister that they could get to listen to them.) Or they tell me the truth.
But surely this sort of thing isn’t such a big problem, is it? We have systems and government agencies to deal with these sorts of people, don’t we? The fact is, these systems and agencies work well in many cases, for those that still have it together well enough to have identification and verifiable stories, but if this is not the case, through carelessness, or misfortune, addiction, or mental health issues, the system does not work so well. Those working on behalf of these agencies, do their very best to administer these important programs with little funding, and many demands, but they cannot do miracles. The fishes and the loaves miracle doesn’t work for the Compassion Fund.
The question begs to be asked, then. What happens to the people that the systems cannot help? These are the people that have fallen between the cracks. Some of them couldn’t tell the same story twice, if their lives depended on it. Some tell the truth. Some can’t remember the truth. But God still loves them. Some are addicts. But God still loves them. Some are running from the law, or soon will be. But God still loves even them, unconditionally.
Do we care about those that don’t fit into what we consider “normal” the “outcasts’? If we care about what Jesus taught, we should. Jesus said, “”I tell you the truth. Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”(Matt. 25:40).
May our caring turn into action, an action without expectation for great reform for these people,—making them easier to love than they might be now. Our caring must be without condition, but be a sign of the love that God has given us. This action doesn’t make us suckers for their stories, but doers of God’s will.