A few Fridays ago I got the opportunity to spend my morning having a conversation with one of our homeless friends about his life. He told me that he had lived in New York, Miami, and Dallas before ending up in Fort Worth. He told me about his family, about his friends, and about his interests. We talked about college, and what our favorite and least favorite classes were/are. We talked about sports, and laughed about my limited knowledge on the topic. We talked about how he used to be a physical therapist, and about how he loved his job.
By the end of this 30 minute conversation I found myself forgetting that my new friend was homeless. He was smart, funny, and kind. He was just a normal dude, that somehow had everything taken away from him. At no point in our conversation did my friend ask me to give him anything. He simply wanted to talk.
We didn’t have a deep, heartfelt, intense conversation, but that Friday was a huge eye opener for me. That morning I noticed that my outlook on homelessness was, sadly, the furthest thing from the truth. Before this summer I viewed people in poverty as individuals in need of material things. Whether that be money, shelter, education, or food, I saw them as lacking something physical. After my first conversation with one of our street friends I realized for the first time that people in poverty need something more than any amount of money could provide.
They need to be loved and supported in the same way that God loves and supports us. When God looks down at us, He doesn’t neglect or criticize us for the mess we all make out of our lives. Instead He meets us where we are and loves us unconditionally. This summer I have learned how important it is to meet people where they are. I’ve learned to love people through their mistakes, support them through their trials, and provide community to those who seek it.
My friend wants more than anything to be noticed in the midst of a world that constantly ignores him. He wants people to see him as a person, not just as the culmination of his past or of his mistakes. He wants simply to be respected as the human that he is. Coming to Bingo, my friend was looking for conversation, support, and friendship. Thanks to the The NET and the rockin’ people that make Bingo & Bagels happen every Friday, I get to watch my new friend delight in the way that our little community respects and loves him unconditionally.