In Seattle, at Mary's Place, I watched our youth work in the kitchen and the clothes closet. I also watched them interact with the women there and actually take the time to get to know them. By the end of the first day, they'd made friends. They knew the names of so many women. They shared stories and cried together. They cuddled babies and asked questions and made me very very proud.
As the week drew to a close, I watched them become so full of God's grace that it spilled over all around them. The proof of this came when we arrived at the Memphis airport and I realized there'd been no fighting or snapping or pouting on our trip. That many teenagers interacting 24/7 for a week typically ends in the grouchies. Corey and I refer to this as "Day 4 Attitudes." I looked at my husband on Day 7 and commented, "There have been no day 4 attitudes."
Since then, I have continued to marvel at the grace that went before us on our trip, the grace that kept our kids smiling and laughing even as we sat around the Houston airport with no idea when or if we'd catch our flight to Memphis. Still, something has nagged at the corner of my spirit, something I want these kids to take away from their trip. Last night, I finally put my finger on it.
It is hard to step past stereotypes and get to know people who are homeless or nearly homeless. I get that. And we talked about coming home and translating this open-heartedness into their relationship to the poor in our own community. We talked about all the ways they can help. What we missed is this:
Can you look past other stereotypes and prejudices for people who are NOT homeless? When caring for women in a shelter, it is easy to feel as though your are the hands and feet of Christ. However, when you are at school or work, do you treat other people with that same grace? Do you take the time to listen to someone's story even when you won't get God's gold star for doing homeless ministry? What about the girl who makes snide remarks behind your back or the friend who leaked a secret you have shared with only her? Can you look past THEIR faults and hear them out? What about your parents, your siblings, your children?
It is wonderful to break down the barriers that keep us from loving people... all people. Whether they are homeless or live in a mansion, straight or gay, male or female, nice or mean, sane or crazy, quiet or loud, normal or strange... Can you look at EVERYONE and see God's face?