I’m not talking about pride or ego. Dignity is being able to look past the circumstances you find yourself in and hold your head up. In faith, dignity is there. God gives you the strength to endure, without hiding your face or handing your head in shame. Dignity allows you to be able to stand on a street corner and ask for help. Dignity allows you to walk into a food bank and pick up a box of food. Dignity is what allows you to walk into a church in raggedy clothes or even very used second hand clothes and sit down in a pew and talk to God.
Dignity is often all a homeless person wants. If you give someone what they need, they can find dignity. If you have dignity, which comes through faith, you can overcome everything. Give a person a chance to get a shower and some clean clothes, it makes them feel better. Give someone the chance to get some sleep somewhere safe, it gives them confidence. Give somebody a bathroom to use instead of the bushes or behind an air conditioner, and you give them some self respect. It helps them, us, build faith.
The problem is that as a whole, we as a society walk right past the sidewalk sleeper, avoid sitting near the guy asleep and drooling on the trolley who looks kind of rough, we don’t see that there are women who are homeless, jobless, desperate to get into some kind of a stable environment to keep themselves upright and safe. We don’t want to talk to the guy reading a book sitting on a wall across from the St Vincent De Paul service center. Why? What are we afraid of? Because when it comes right down to it, any of us could and some will become that guy or that woman overnight. And what point does it serve if we walk right past with our eyes wide shut. Open but not seeing. We’ve hardened our hearts to the poor and needing of this country. Veterans, women, old people, guys who have lost everything in the economy and haven’t been able to get back up from it. People who have lost hope.
The Bible says we need to love our neighbor as ourselves. That really means every one is our neighbor: the addict, the alcoholic, the strange looking woman in the layers of clothes, the guy who pulls a wagon around the city. The kids who are playing on the same ball court every day, same time, all weather because the only parent they have is a meth addict and it’s safer on the court than in the house. These people are real. It isn’t for us to judge them. It is for us to do exactly what Jesus taught us that we all should do, as Christians. That is to help them-do for them what you would HOPE someone would do for you. For Pete’s sake, they aren’t going to bite you. Talk to them. Say hello. Ask them how they are. Ask them if they ate today. I have found as a rule food isn’t really an issue for many homeless, there are a LOT of resources, but there may be someone who needs a meal…and if that’s the case, go buy them one and bring it back, or better yet take them into a Burger King or something like it. They are not going to buy the whole menu, and likely if you tell them you only have “X” amount of money, they will respect the fact you are even helping them.
Stop walking around with your eyes wide shut. Reach out and give somebody a hand up. It’s the right thing to do. And you are saving yourself when you do it.