The number one question I get about being on the streets is about safety.
Am I afraid?
How do I stay safe?
Last night, I waited for food-to-go next to a Dallas Police Department officer. He and I got to talking. He also talked to me about safety. He didn't understand why I do what I do. I told him that we are on the streets because we believe every person has value. I told him that I don't go out alone and that we are conscious of what's going on around us at all time.
Before I left, he warned me to never take a homeless person to my home.
This was especially interesting to me because I want to more fully integrate our lives with our work. What do I mean?
Well, just this week, some of my closest friends on the streets asked me when they could come over for dinner. I have known many of them for over a year now. I spend more time with them than I do many of my closest friends -- hours a week. Isn't a next logical step to have them into our home for dinner?
So far, Elissa and I haven't brought any person who is homeless to our respective homes. We talk about it a lot, dream of having a room set aside for homeless friends in desperate places. Yet, our "logic" thus far, and ideas about "safety," have gotten the best of us (besides the very practical fact that neither of us currently have an extra room in our house).
But then, I read a Dorothy Day quote that said this:
"A custom existed among the first generations of Christians, when faith was a bright fire that warmed more than those who kept it burning. In every house then a room was kept ready for any stranger who might ask for shelter; it was even called 'the stranger's room.' Not because these people thought they could trace something of someone they loved in the stranger who used it, not because the man or woman to whom they gave shelter reminded them of Christ, but because -- plain and simple and stupendous fact -- he or she was Christ."
Lately, when I have told people that I want a stranger's room, some say things like, "At least your heart is in the right place, but that's a bad idea."
I want to ask: Why is this a bad idea? Because no one is doing it that we know?
Does that implicitly make it a bad idea? Is it less safe and more risky to have a homeless person stay in our home? Yes. It is. But when did our lives become about safety and no risk?
When did Christianity become about comfort and ease?
This is not the Christianity I want. This Christianity is boring.
Jesus is not boring. Jesus is wild adventure. Jesus takes us to unexpected places. I want to go there with him.
The reality is that I don't know if we'll ever have a stranger's room. There are all sorts of practicalities that would have to be worked out -- for one, we'd have to move into a bigger home. We
have to talk through "rules" and how to stay safe, just like we have had to talk through about my being on the streets. Having a stranger's room would be risky.
Even still, I hope we one day have a stranger's room ...
I imagine bringing a broken person into our home from off the streets, washing their dirty clothes, showing them the bathroom so they can get clean, and letting them fall asleep in a warm bed. I imagine telling them, "What ours is yours. If it's really important to you to take any of our stuff, then do it. It's not ours anyway."