There is a third of an acre of asphalt surrounded by a chain link fence in central Phoenix. The tarmac lies directly adjacent to the Central Arizona Shelter Services. Each evening the serial homeless and those with no place else to go gather, or, they are corralled by the local police into this lot. If you are one of the fortunate ones, you may get to spend the night inside the building. However, if you are violent or otherwise ‘less desirable’ you get the privilege of laying your body down on a blanket on the ground in this lot. (I wonder how much sleep you or I would get.) For the most part they are there not because they want to be, but the circumstances and consequences of their lives have placed them there. Doubtless that any had plans to wind up in this lot, yet here they are. I’m sure that if you could rewind the tape of their lives, for most of them, there was a point where their life turned toward this path, and left the path where they were in the arms of a loving family – a loving home.
Every major city in America has some place like this. Heck, every significant gathering of humankind has had places like this for centuries – the part of the community for those with no one, or nowhere to go – the place for those with no home. So, what is ‘home’? There are a couple of definitions I found that most of us can relate to: (1) the place in which one’s domestic affections are centered; (2) the place where something is native or most common. These people have neither.
I had an opportunity to be driving in the area of 12th and Madison not too long ago, at around midnight. It was not long before I was pulled over by a police officer wondering what I was doing around there at that time of night – or for that matter at any time. Me: apparently someone with someplace to be other than there. I believe I was there because God wanted me to see it and be reminded that it still all exists today. But how does it serve God’s purpose? Well, it stirs my compassion (which is good); it reminds me that these people are part of my Christian family. It haunts my memory each day, and it reminds me of Matthew 25:35-36:
‘…For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…’
Then it came to me that Christ must be haunted with similar images of His church – lost souls without a home. Does His heart go out to us as ours does to the less fortunate? Did you ever think of yourself as ‘less fortunate’? Well God does – if you consider your fortune tied to your relationship with Him. We are also homeless in that the earth is not really our home. (‘We were not made for this world’ is the phrase.) Because as Christians, are we not away from our home? The place for which you were made; the place where you feel the most comfortable and the most at peace. This explains our restlessness or constant searching for what we term as ‘happiness’. (“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” St. Augustine.)
So you see, we, those with a roof over their head, have so much more in common than we think with those ‘poor souls’ living in the streets. Spiritually, we all remain home-less until that time when we return to our real home – in the arms of our loving Father, for we are all on that same journey. Think about that the next time you see one of your fellow travelers that may need a hand in getting back home. Then do something.