Homelessness is not a statistic.

Chicago has been in a deep freeze.  There are days where I simply do not want to leave the comforts of my house.  I run to the car, shiver as it heats up then scamper back into the confines of a warm building.  It has been so cold that I have been putting on layers – amazing since I am a warm-natured person.  I have been known to wear shorts around the house in January – not so this year.  I am extremely thankful for heat, warm clothes, and blankets.

On Saturday, I helped with our church’s homeless ministry.  I enjoyed conversation with dozens of men and women scattered around parts of the church.  They were enjoying a place to sleep, a warm meal, and a free haircut.  They were resting in a place where they didn’t have to worry about getting kicked out or scorned due to their circumstances.  I am thankful my church is able to provide a place for those experiencing difficult times to find rest even if only for a short period of time.

One of the benefits of the ministry is it allows for close-up interaction with the homeless.  You can laugh and talk to them.  You can eat a meal with them.  You can hear how they are doing and experience love in return as they ask how you are doing.  There was an African-American lady at our most recent warming day.  She was a delightful person.  She smiled and laughed at life.  It was her first time at our homeless day.  She talked about how good God is in her life.  She expressed deep thanks for the church’s care for them.  Her clothes were tattered and worn.  It appeared as if she was wearing the hardships of life on her shoulders.  Yet, her spirit was not defeated.  She was hopeful for what 2016 might hold for her.  I was blessed by her as she provided a reality check on how to live grace through difficulty.

Monday was one of those days where it was brutally cold outside.  As I sit in the warm comforts of my office, I look out and think about those that are attempting to survive the hardships of this day.  At this moment, there are people who are walking from place to place simply to get to their next homeless shelter with the hope that they get a bed for the night.  And if they do not, they are forced to walk the streets attempting as best as they can to stay warm.  Sadly, more and more homeless shelters are shutting down due to lack of volunteers and finances.  The end result is the sad reality that more and more people are unable to find places to stay.

Oh, I pray that they find a place to stay for the night.  I pray that there will be enough beds for them to sleep in peace for an evening out of the brutal cold.  I pray I will not be so quick to complain about my own discomforts in light of those with far less.  The homeless are not statistics.  They are not a societal problem to be fixed.  They are people with feelings, personalities, hopes, dreams, difficulties, and heartbreak.  They are people preciously made in the image of God.  As I think about the warmth of my home, I am reminded that it is a gift not a given.  I am reminded of those that would give anything to be warm on a day like today.  I am reminded that each person that society looks over and dismisses has a name and loved by God.

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