09 September 2010

the friendly neighbourhood homeless guy

When I moved into the community a number of years ago, I was aware that we had a sort of drop-in centre. That part of the life here intrigued me, especially as it felt like I'd be better able to be personally involved with the poor and needy, something I felt Christians ought to do but had no idea how. I had felt pretty distant from the poor and needy while attending Seminary or living in a small town. My only experience with homeless folk was a few random people begging and some of the gypsy camps in Ukraine. When I taught there, a gypsy woman who I saw regularly would often ask for money. I'd give her money sometimes, but I felt rather helpless in knowing better what to do.

And now, I sit and have coffee amidst homeless folks. Sometimes it's nothing more than sitting in the same room as each other - conversations flow among people who've known each other for long and less with those who've just come to visit for the coffee. And sometimes a coffee that's all that's wanted - or a place to get out of the rain or cold and to rest and get a bit of coffee. But sometimes it's a conversation that's desired, something I still find difficult to manage with some people. But with others, it's much easier - and we've built a kind of rapport. So with some of those who walk in, even if we don't talk, there's a general appreciation for the other.

And sometimes we'll even see each other on walking along the street and then we'll greet each other. That I now do that and find that normal is something I'm glad of; it feels like a number of people have stopped being "those homeless folks" who are nameless and in desperate need of help. Instead, a number of guys have started becoming one of my friendly neighbourhood homeless guys, people I enjoy greeting on the street and look forward to seeing. And even if I'm still not sure when it comes to homelessness how best I can love God and others, it feels like there's been a step forward. And I feel honoured that I now have some homeless guys in my social circle, something I would never have imagined possible before I came here.

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