Recently, we have redefined the vision of JUSTembrace. We have simplified it. Instead of a paragraph of gradschool words, we have simplified our dream:
People Living Lives of Restoration*
I want to share with you the evidence that our vision isn’t unreachable – it’s actually happening! This message came to my facebook as I walked home from the soup kitchen where I’d just enjoyed another meal with friends. These words made my heart sing!
Sher, today was so humbling for me. I have always been an advocate for community outreach in our area. I strive to have my student nurse association get out into our community and help those in need wherever they are at. Until today I don’t guess it has ever hit me. How even I had treated the homeless as a group and not individuals. I had never taken the time to really talk to them. Today that was made very clear to me. I pulled up to a gas station. And to be quiet honest I never give cash to a homeless person…… So when the 5 foot tall African American woman with a small petite frame approached me I assumed she was gonna ask me for money. I looked the other way as she walked towards me. She had on a fluffy coat but upon closer inspection it had large holes in the arms shining through to her under shirt, she had on ragged jeans and sneakers that had seen their better days. I looked at her face. She was searching my face for my reaction, that was apparent. Her soft tired eyes darted to the ground as I said
“Hello. May I help you?”
She asked me to buy her some potato chips because she was so hungry. I said of course. As we walked in she shared that she was homeless. I asked her why she was not in a shelter. She replied that she was waiting for a bed. I then asked if she goes to the soup kitchen and she replied;
“well yes ma’am but they only feed me once a day.” And with no way to get there the 2 mile walk was a long way.
I realized at that moment I had never really seen them. All the people that I thought I had helped….. I really had nothing more than sympathy for them. I never understood. It all was so easy on paper. Shelters, soup kitchen, free clinic. But that’s not easy for them. If you’re too weak or tired to get up and walk for miles to these places for assistance ….. You end up cold, tired and hungry. I was ashamed of my self at that moment.
Even though I smelled the alcohol on her breath. She had told me she was hungry so we walked in. I told her to get whatever she wanted. She got a sandwich chips and a drink. As we walked to the counter ahead she was looking at the candy and gum. I told her to get what she wanted again and she reached down and picked a pack of gum. I picked up some fruit and placed it on the counter with her items. $5.92 later we were on our way.
She said “you have blessed me today.” I simply told her that she had it wrong. She had blessed me. That I had an experience that I would never forget.
Francine had asked me to pray for her. As i got into my warm car I looked toward the woods she had emerged from. She had sat down and was eating her food. I was enlightened today. But not with happiness and delight or some great idea, but the reality that sometimes its not as easy as getting up and getting a job and quitting the habits. Sometimes it simply is the task of figuring out what am I going to eat today? I want you to please pray for France with me. I admire you for what you do. The relationships you develop….. It not just giving of service. Its giving of little pieces of you.
I can’t believe I have been in the midst of so many vulnerable people in Spartanburg and have never seen them. I truly saw today.
I think, and am truly ashamed to say, that the deeds I was doing before were selfish. Until today. I had a moment of clarity as I have never had before. Looking past myself and seeing her was a true revelation. I never knew the acts were self absorbed until today. What service did I ever do for them not seeing them inside? They have done a selfless act upon me and never knew they did.
*Don’t hold me to this – we might wordsmith a bit more….