As I drove home from work the other day, I passed a few people standing on busy corners with signs saying “homeless” or “need food” or “out of work, please help.” Because of the route I drive, this sight is not new to me. In fact, it happens so often that I could not even tell you if the same people are on the same corners each day as I pass them. I am often oblivious, caught up in my own thoughts and ready to transition from work to home. But I had a strange thought the other day as I drove home and passed the sign-holders.
We sing about being home for Christmas…what happens when there is no home to go to? Would the song change? I’ll be home[less] for Christmas…doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, and I doubt that Bing Crosby would have sounded so good to the ear. The words would have to change significantly…I don’t think that homeless people would beg for snow, and they won’t have a tree to put presents under. I’m not trying to be absurd; these are really the thinks I think!
I live in Hennepin County which likely has the largest homeless population in Minnesota. In 2010, the Wilder Foundation estimated that nearly 10,000 people were homeless in Minnesota. Nearly half of that number are children or youth. If they are fortunate on any given night, they call a shelter home. If they are not, home is the street. That is a lot of people! I googled (don’t you love how that is an acceptable verb now?) the population of Jamestown, ND. It is around 15,500 at best guess. I went to college there, and that seems like a lot of people to be homeless. It is. That is what is so hard to fathom. An entire ND town’s population is a close estimate to the number of homeless people in MN. That’s crazy talk. And this is the United States of America – the richest country in the world?
I often write of problems – my own and the problems of others. At Christmas time and other holiday times, the problems that we think of have to do with the loss that we feel because of a loved one who is no longer with us or because things just haven’t gone well for us this year with our job, with other family members, or in our personal lives. But when faced with the problem of not having a home, that really gets down to the bare bones of things.
I have issues. Sometimes when I say that, my husband responds, “You have a whole subscription.” And I get really focused on my issues. I get bent out of shape. I throw little 37 year old tantrums. Things are not the way I want them to be, the way I think they should be, or even the way I think I deserve them to be. I want. I want. I want. And I get so wrapped up in myself that I forget that the world does not revolve around me. I forget that a world exists outside of my walls and my brain, and I get really wrapped up in that.
But I cannot look at my own life with any integrity and say that I have problems in the same way that I would if I did not have a home. I cannot imagine what that would be like. I am where I am because of a series of events, decisions, other people, and choices that those other people have made for me. When we say things like that, we often follow that up with, “And I thank God for that.” I thought about this as I drove home the other day. Would a homeless person thank God for shelter tonight night? I am guessing that they would. Should I see myself as more blessed than they are? No way. The fact that I have when they have not places responsibility on me to look outside of myself and their needs.
Christmas has historically been a time when we give presents. In today’s culture, for the most part, I think that we just give what we would give anyway – it doesn’t really take the holiday. That game that we wanted would have been bought regardless of Christmas. For some of us, we are just exchanging wealth. We thoughtlessly throw our wealth at loved ones who rarely appreciate it because it is not much of a sacrifice anyway. And in the meantime, those with actual needs go without for another night.
This past Sunday, my huz preached a sermon about how we can do miracles. He did this really cool thing where he had the kids of congregation sit on the steps up to the stage while he preached. And he preached to them almost the entire time. It was interactive, he asked them questions, and he let them answer. He talked about how God meant for us to be the miracles. Feed the hungry. Heal the sick. Give shelter to the homeless.
In sending His son to the earth as a baby, God sacrificed part of Himself. I doubt that the Trinity considered our reaction to this sacrifice before they did it. The miracle of Christmas leads to the salvation provided through the cross of Easter. Our response should be that of sacrifice as well. Instead of exchanging wealth with those who have no needs, perhaps we should consider being the miracle that God intends us to be and provide for those with great needs.
Who can we bless this Christmas?