Her name is Joan. You probably wouldn’t know that, but you might recognize her. You’ve never looked in her eyes, but her life is on display.
Homeless, she wanders. Almost daily she comes to our office, and we are eager to know her. Receiving a meal, some hygiene items, some cold weather necessities; gives us opportunity to welcome her by name. Joan. Not a statistic. Not a burden on society. Not a shame. A soul. A life created with intention.
Today she asks for another sleeping bag. Her last one was stolen. Yesterday, she requested feminine hygiene items. She needs new socks and underwear. Although she has found public restrooms where she can wash hers out in the sink and use the hand dryer, she worries that someone else will come in and she will have to explain herself.
For reasons we don’t know, she’s not ready or not able to make a lot of changes in her life. We make it our ministry to show her love every time she walks through our doors, to say her name, and to remind her that in this place, she will be treated as a child of God. Precious. So precious in his sight.
When our possessions lose their usefulness, they are set aside or thrown away. Although we would never want to think that we do this with people, how do our actions reflect that? If we primarily evaluate life and faith in terms of productivity and usefulness, then we devalue lives that do not fit into those categories. We devalue the lives of those experiencing homelessness, those with mental and physical disabilities, those who are sick and dying.
Yet Jesus is not primarily interested in making people productive or useful to society. Jesus is interested in seeing people reborn. To become children again, born into relationship with him; stripped of identity and possessions, vulnerable, empty, so all we can do is receive.
Some days, she’ll make eye contact. Some days, she’ll smile. She’ll accept our offer of prayer. We can reach over and hold her hand and speak what may be the only words to her that day that are truth and life-giving, not condemning or objectifying. Some days, she looks away, and you know it was a hard night. She might hide her bruises beneath the brim of her hat, or perhaps the hurts are unseen and too painful to be spoken.
We give her a meal. We speak her name again. It’s Joan.
The 2017 homeless count identified 110 unsheltered individuals living in Grant County. How will you respond?
This column was written on behalf of the Moses Lake Christian Ministerial Association.