Published December 04, 2013
Have you ever awakened to a brand new day filled with the gnawing pangs of hunger? Or have you awakened to the new dawn without a place to call home?
Imagine what it feels like to lack the resources to buy food or to afford a roof over your head.
Imagine how difficult it is to be among the nearly 50-million people estimated to be living below the poverty line.
Wait! Let's think about that for a moment. How is it even possible to be living in America, the land of plenty with so much lack? Why or how does this happen?
It seems implausible. Yet there are plenty of people who find themselves gripped in the snare of poverty. No food, no clothing, no visible way of escaping the clutches of homelessness and despair.
I know how that feels.
I know what it’s like to be hungry, homeless and alone.
I know how it feels to think that everybody is looking down on you with shame because you’ve hit rock bottom.
It’s a painful and sharp blow to the heart when you fall into a crevasse of hardship.
You constantly worry about hunger.
You are often tormented with thoughts of shame and guilt for having this station in life.
The agony is unbearable, the conditions are intolerable and the outlook for a better tomorrow is inexorable.
That’s how it was for me when after making some poor choices I hit a very rough patch in life. I was forced to live out of my car, peddle fake leather goods on the streets to make a few bucks a day, enough to buy a sandwich and some gas.
By the grace of God, I persevered and overcame those difficult days.
Through it all, I have never forgotten the hopeful voice of an unusual breed of people who always encouraged me with a message of hope. They would always tell me to trust in God and my life would get better.
They were the people who volunteered on the streets to touch the needs of people wounded by misfortune. They were members of the Salvation Army, a local church group, or a shelter.
To this day, I am always grateful for the heroic work these humble servants do to help the forgotten.
I suppose that’s why I’m so enthusiastic about what the staff and volunteers at the New York City Rescue Mission. They, along with The Bowery Mission, The Walter Hoving Home for Women and other groups like these are on the frontlines in a real war on poverty.
They may never make headlines for doing the good work they do. They may never earn a medal of freedom, or even a pat on the back for their efforts. But their labor is never in vain.
They are constantly on the offensive in feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, providing shelter for the homeless, and giving the poor a helping hand up in beating their addictions to substance abuse, or helping them get an education and job training to return to the work force.
So as you go about your daily routine, and pass by that homeless person all bundled up in a cardboard box over a steam grate, resist the urge to condemn that person.
Instead say a prayer. Call a shelter and ask if you can volunteer to help. Take time out to think how it could be you living in poverty. Take away our jobs and money we could be homeless too. Think about it.
As you prepare for celebrating Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ, imagine how you can be in service to men, women and children in need.
Jesus once asked; were you there when I was homeless, were you there when I was sick, hungry or in prison? And then he adds, whatever you do to the least of these, that you've done unto me.
Wakeup America, let's help each other live a better life.