Last week I attended the Anchorage Assembly as they dealt with the issue of homeless camps. Rev. Michael Burke, pastor of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Anchorage, is a good friend and articulate spokesperson for the homeless. He has the credibility of 20 years of visiting homeless persons around Anchorage. Several of his members do not have a place they call home.
At a recent forum on homelessness the leaders at St. Mary’s taught me that it is very important to be in relationship with the poor, to look them in the eye and speak their name.
Recently I was coming out of Fred Meyer with my lunch in hand, headed back to the office. A man approached me in the parking lot and asked me if I had 20 cents. I had become used to projecting my steel side that protected my wallet and I really did not have 20 cents in change and told him so. I was surprised that he did not follow up with another request. As I was securing my lunch in my motorcycle bags he was admiring my bike. I asked his name. “Bruce,” he said. “Hi Bruce. I’m Dave.” We chatted for a bit and then parted.
Okay, before I pat myself on the back for this response, let’s fast forward to later that night. I’m lying in bed trying to sleep when I heard God speak. “Why didn’t you ask Bruce if he was hungry? You could have given him your lunch.” I pounded the bed! Why didn’t I think of this?
I share this with you because I have much to learn about the poor. I have so many layers of white middle-class privilege that need to be peeled away. Being a Christ follower does not always make me comfortable. But facing up to the ways I have been shaped by my culture can help me see the humanity in another child of God.
So what barriers do you automatically erect in such circumstances? Friends, we really need to be in authentic relationship with all of God’s children. This is especially true for the poor.