I hear them Monday through Friday. I can hear them because my office is just down the hall from the reception area — the place they come for food and to find a place for their children to sleep and for counsel.
I hear their voices. They go on and on and on with their stories. I can tell they just need someone to listen. Because who really wants to listen to them.
I don’t hear dead beats. I don’t hear “takers.” They might be losing but they’re not “losers.”
Close to 50% of those we serve are minor children.
Children are always innocent.
They tell the caseworker the problem. There’s always distress in the voice. “My husband just left us. He just said he’s done. He took all the money. We are going to be evicted. Do you have food?”
The family where the dad got laid-off. Five young children. Then mother gets diagnosed with stage four cancer.
Just a few minutes ago: “I have a special aura. Nobody steals from me. Demons from the pits of hell. They try. But they know they will drop dead. Because God is on my side.”
She was ranting. She was in her 60’s. She was frail and slovenly and you could hear that agitation and panic in her raspy voice. “At 16 years old I was on top of the list to be a student representative to go to Brazil. I was such a good student. The best. But they never let me go. But I’m not going to let them stop me. I’m going to Brazil.”
Dead beat? Taker?
A few of the the circumstances seem to be because of self-inflicted decisions. Irresponsibility. Laziness. Lack of self care.
But what healthy person would inflict harm on herself?
Not the rich kids who grew up in the stable homes. Not the ones who went to private school with family vacations and the stay at home mom and the education and the nurturing. These ones usually have no reason to harm themselves.
Hurt people hurt people.
They hurt themselves most.
People who believe in the just pull yourself up by the bootstraps simplicity haven’t seen abuse and poverty up close. They base their simplistic remedy on theory.
Jesus didn’t. He helped them. He had compassion.
Just a few seconds ago. “Hi, I’m homeless. I’ve never been here before. I’m hungry. Do you have a sandwich or something I could eat? Thank you so much.”