Celebrating Difference

A guest post by Rachel Nash.

The man pictured with Rachel above is not the same one in the story.

The man pictured with Rachel above is not the same one in the story.

I met "Charles" under the bridge about a month ago. We were in Tent City with the goal of recruiting someone with construction experience to help us build a bench for the neighborhood. Elisabeth began speaking to someone about the bench project, and all of the sudden I found myself having a conversation with Charles, completely off course from my original intent. 

He began to tell me about his life, his rap music, and how he was going to create an album soon, when, all of the sudden the conversation took a turn. He began telling me about how he had been baptized four or five times. He said he would go to one church and get baptized, then he would go to another and they would encourage him to be baptized there, and so he would. All in all, he had been dunked into the holy water four or five times. 

This really struck me in light of how I see homeless people. 

Do I see them as a group of people who I need to baptize into my way of thinking, operating, doing life? One job. One house. Two kids. 

Charles told me he is homeless by choice. He told me, "Every time I get my hands on money, the sin and temptation that come with cash are too much for me to handle."

This isn't the first time someone has told me they are homeless by choice; and it's not the first time my immediate reaction is judgment. 

I think ... 

Are you just saying that because you are homeless?

Would you really rather be homeless than have a warm home?

Wouldn't you rather be like me?

I am challenged by my judgment. Accept Charles. Accept his choice right now. 

One time, a homeless man in Chicago told me he was homeless because "who else would minister to these people down here in the streets?" He went on to say that he gives others his pennies, because "even the homeless have to tithe." 

Who am I to judge others, homeless or non-homeless alike, for where they are in life? I need to quit making the assumption that homeless people want to be like me. I need to embrace their differences. God has called us to be different, created us differently, and we are all in His image. 

So how does this kind of thinking shape how we work with and view homeless people who are different than us? Will we try and baptize them again, make them like us, only for them to go to a different church and get baptized again? 

Or, will we accept them for who they are, where they are, and what they do?

What if we stop making assumptions about homeless people and just start getting to know them? 

What if we meet them where they are instead of pushing them into our perfect worldview?