This past weekend, my fiance and I began moving into our first house. Even though I will not be physically living there for another few months, with each box I unpack, it begins to feel like home. It just so happens that the last corporal work of mercy in our series is to ‘shelter the homeless.’ I don't know if it is just a coincidence or if the Holy Spirit prompted me to save it for now. Either way, the experience of settling into my first house and writing about the homeless simultaneously, opens my mind to reflect on what it might be like to not have a home.
Sheltering the homeless is more than an invitation to take people off the street and allow them to live in your house. Unfortunately, our current society tells us that people are left homeless because of their own faults. Any money given, to someone on the street, will be used and abused. The homeless want to live that way. Because of this negative attitude, society is not always willing to cater to the homeless, first.
I, too, find myself focusing on the negative. I did not always have this mindset, but after learning that the same man told the same story to both my sister and I in the same parking lot and convinced both of us to give him money for his granddaughter.....6 months apart! I became a bit weary. There are people who live homelessly who choose that lifestyle and may even abuse resources given. But, that is NOT the same story for everyone. Joseph did not choose that life for his pregnant wife.
Think back to the first Christmas. Wouldn't you consider Mary and Joseph homeless when they first arrived in Bethlehem? By the time they got to town, they were unable to ‘shop around’ for a place to stay because all of the Inn’s were full. Joseph probably felt so defeated knowing he was unable to find a comfortable place for his wife to stay. After being rejected by multiple inn keepers, one took pity, and allowed them to stay in the stable with the animals.
I love imagining how the Holy Family created a home out of the stable! How did they rearrange the manger scene to make a loving home for the sweet baby Jesus?
Right now our school is putting together a donation drive for our students to bring gently used towels, blankets, sheets, and various baby items. We asked the students to think of resources the Holy Family was in need of during their time in Bethlehem. The items we collected will be donated to a local Hospitality Center that provides outreach programs for people who are in need of support and services because of homelessness, poverty, drug addiction, alcoholism and other crises. The invitation written for the children put into perspective how vulnerable of a situation Mary and Joseph were in.
Many of the homeless today are placed in vulnerable situations. They rely on the donations of people like you and me who have the means to donate a few things. This could include clothing, kitchen items, blankets, and the list goes on and on. Between my fiance and I, we have plenty of water bottles and coffee mugs. It is fun to see which items we are okay with donating and how full our donation box is getting as we finish unpacking.
Regardless of their living situation, a person is a person. Please give respect to the homeless people you encounter. This Advent season, I encourage you to reflect on the experience of the Holy Family in Bethlehem. If you recognized Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus within the homeless people in your community, would you treat them/view them differently? I challenge you to pray for the homeless people in your community and donate to outreach programs. You never know if that sweet homeless baby you encounter will be the savior of the world!
Until next time~Your sister in Christ,