"So.....last year when we decided to take the kids on a trip for Christmas instead of buying them presents, I started looking around to see if there were any places to serve on Christmas day." Aaron looked up from his book and waited for me to continue. "I couldn't find anything at any of the usual places. I guess Christmas Day isn't as popular a day to serve the homeless as, say, Thanksgiving is."
He is still looking at me, though I know he is catching onto my drift. "So I am wondering if it would be totally crazy to take a few hours on Christmas Day and head down to Cesar Chavez Park (where a portion of our city's homeless population gathers) or something and hand out food and blankets or whatever. We could see if people wanted to come and help us." and within minutes we talked about what we could do, how we could help and how to make this one act part of a way of life for us and our kids, how we realize that while we don't have much, we have SO MUCH.
As we planned I could feel tightness in my throat building up and I croaked out, "But it will be on Christmas! What if no one wants to help us on Christmas Day? People are busy! WE are busy!"
These are the moments where I wonder how the heck I got so lucky, because my husband smiled and said, "Well, then we will load up the van and the kids and do it by ourselves. That's ok." and as soon as he said it I began to blubber and cry in the middle of Old Soul Coffee Co, like the fool that I am.
We are feelers in this family. We have big feelings. Lots of feelings. We talk about our feelings. It's exhausting, but good. As I am trying to discreetly, or at least prettily cry in public, my husband looks at me and asks me, "Are you feeling guilty?" I look at him. "Do you feel guilty for what we have or for not doing this sooner? I'm not saying it's a good or bad thing, I am just asking."
Yes. Yes, I do feel guilty sometimes. We have a comfortable home and food and give away or throw away more than we ever consume. So, yes. There is some guilt. But the real guilt, the real issue for us, is that we have not done more to help. We haven't made helping the needy and homeless an natural output of our lives and that makes me sad, and now all of Old Soul Coffee Co. knows it, too.
During his sermon Sunday our pastor was talking about obedience, and how when we obey God we are
like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither. In all he does, he prospers. Psalm 1:3When we obey God we can't help but prosper in the fruits of the spirit - love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23) and sometimes when we are also rewarded with financial prosperity.
The thing that struck me was "yields". A fruit tree yields its fruit.
As in give up, relinquish, hand over, give away. As in doesn't keep. This can easily apply to the love, joy, peace, and kindness that obedience to God give us. It very easily applies to our money, time, and possessions as well. It is natural for us to look at whatever wealth God gives us and say, "Sweet, God! Thanks!" and use it mostly to our own benefit.
Whatever guilt I have comes from the fact that my daily life does not reflect God's call to believers to serve the poor and downtrodden. If I profess to be a believer, then I am called to help the needy. The question isn't Am I called to minister to the poor? it is How am I called to minister to the poor?
In the most technical sense we do give to the poor. We donate to shelters, we give to missionaries who work with the homeless and downtrodden, we give to the man on the center divide when we have change. Check, check, check. But helping the poor, homeless, downtrodden, abused, helpless people of our community isn't second nature. And it should be.
Though Aaron and I started the conversation in the context of what we would do for the homeless community of Sacramento at Christmas, we both voiced a desire to make helping the homeless and marginalized of our city second nature for ourselves and our family. Now we are left with taking the next step; acting on what we believe.