The One Thing Hurting People Need the Most

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I’ve spent the last several months of my life getting to know people who are homeless. I’ve spent hundreds of hours around men and women living on the street. In ministering to the homeless I’ve found that there are quite a lot of people who are really good at feeding and clothing the poor. This is commendable, as it is needed and commanded by Jesus. I’ve learned, though, that food and clothes can only do so much. They’ll do little for the soul.

We know you don’t have a cure or a solution, that’s not even what we’re looking for.
T and I sit at the end of a long table surrounded by other women. The clock is threatening to hit 3:00 soon, and the ladies are preparing to head back into the July heat. But not T; she’s in the middle of a heartfelt cry. Through tears, she tells me her greatest need is someone to listen to her. She says, “Sometimes we just need someone to sit and listen and nod their head as we unload on them. We know you don’t have a cure or a solution, that’s not even what we’re looking for. Often times, when we come in here, just getting to talk about our problems with someone helps us clear our heads and we can come up with our own solution.

She is a strong woman and this is the first day I’ve seen her cry.
T is a homeless woman I know. She comes into the shelter where I volunteer and we often make conversation. She is a strong woman, and this is the first day I’ve seen her cry. The streets are hard on the soul, body, and mind. Today it’s more than she can handle, and as she cries beside me I’m reminded of her humanity. You see, as T is telling me that she needs someone to listen, what she’s really telling me is that she needs people. She needs friends. She needs community.

There are very few things that I can give to another person that reminds them of their worth as much as my willingness to be present with them.
If you love the homeless, you’re going to have to care for their souls. Don’t misunderstand me, please care for their bodies as well, but don’t forget their souls. There are very few things that I can give to another person that reminds them of their worth as much as my willingness to be present with them. This is only because of the work the Spirit does through the ministry of presence. Being present is a ministry, friends, and it’s a powerful one.

So the next time you find yourself hanging out with someone who’s homeless, give them your time first before you give them your things.

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