5.5.12

Raw and true.

I've been having a hard time lately.

Where I live, I come in to contact with a lot of people from different walks of life. I try to gift myself to them, to love and care for them. I try to serve them. But the truth is, they serve me. Our home is open to them and our table is ready to sustain them but it is, in fact, their smiles and their pain and their solidarity and their strength that opens my heart, and sustains my soul.

But I find it difficult. It is a roller coaster of emotion, continuously throwing me high in to the sky and down in to the depths, never in one place for two long. I have a small child clinging to me, her little brown arms tight around my neck. I have a conversation with a lonely woman who is sick of running away. I hear the story of a broken man who sleeps in a garage. I sing songs with laughter and I listen to the strumming of Bob Marley and smooth brown voices harmonizing. I experience immeasurable joy at the reality of this life, the raw guts of it and the beauty in the grinding of the gears. And I experience immeasurable sorrow in listening to my friends and their stories of sleeping on the street and long nights in the cold winds.

In a moment of complete honesty and vulnerability, I am able to admit that I find it almost impossible to bear the burden of these moments. I hate that I can't stop this. The fact that I don't have enough spare rooms to fit the homeless population of Wellington in to gnaws at me. I don't have the knowledge or experience to stop abuse of power in Housing NZ tenancy agreements. I don't have enough money to provide food and clothing for the kids who instead grow up thinking they have to snatch what kai they can get their hands on. I don't have the means to employ the numerous people I know with skills but no opportunity for a job...

And then I feel selfish, because this this hurts me then just imagine how much it hurts those who are the recipients of these sorrows.

This is my experience of what it is like to live out the Kingdom. Jesus said "the poor you will always have among you." He also said "whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me." It is too easy to turn the other way and refuse to face the suffering of those around us, but the truth is, we cannot escape it. When I have been shown love from the Creator of this Earth, how can I keep that love to myself? It is the one thing I am sure to have. I may not have enough money to give, or enough food to share, or enough warmth for those who need it, but I hope, I beg, I pray that I will always have more than enough love to give to each one of these beautiful people who gift me with their trust. And that is what I can do. I can pour out the love God gives me for each of these people until perhaps, they see that love as being more than just mine. They will see Him, and they will see possibilities, and I am fearfully hopeful that their circumstances and lives will get better.

It is hard. I feel the weight of this cross upon my shoulders. I feel the pain of each of these wonderful souls in my heart. Whilst I laugh with them, I also cry for them. It is not always beautiful. It can get rough, and ugly, and grotesque. The darkness can shroud me in His cold, creeping hands and sometimes, I despair. But in those moments, I am perhaps the closest to the God within my soul as ever before. Psalm 121 echoes.


I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.


I fear the day when the injustices experienced by my friends doesn't hurt me. I tremble at the thought of not wanting to weep when I hear stories of loss and hopelessness and fear in the hearts of these people who are my community. Because the pain of loneliness, of numbness, of apathy, seems scarier and darker and so much more horrible than the empathy that tears at my heart in this house. It is in our weaknesses that we see love shining through. It is in the brokenness that we experience true community, and it is through the cracks in the walls that the light never fails to shine through.

This is perhaps the hardest and most painful piece of writing I have ever had to produce, let alone post on my blog. But there is a reason. 
I ask of you with an open and pleading heart...next time you walk past someone begging on the sidewalk, don't ignore them. Sit with them, take some time to ask them what their name is and where they come from. Give them some money, or food. Be their friend. I can tell you through experience that to feel invisible is more painful than any hunger . 
Next time you skim over the news articles addressing welfare reforms and benefits for the poor and disabled, please don't move on to the sports section without a second thought. To live from week to week with no extra money and no way to keep a child warm carries more shame than you would have to bear by donating to your nearest food bank or Salvation Army. 

...I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?

I feel like making a difference in this world is like banging my head against a brick wall. Sometimes, it seems futile. Sometimes, I feel alone in the fight. Often I am surrounded by those who are my forebears in the struggle. Often, I feel like we are too few among too many. But always, I yearn for the day that there is a change in the lives of these people.

2 comments:

  1. Interesting entry. It opens up the obvious reality of the selfishness which western countries are consumed by these days, that our comrades, and fellow kiwis on the street often go about unnoticed, invisible. The danger of individual achievement rather than collective community outreach is more and more present in Western society. New Zealand would greatly benefit from the command God gives in Leviticus 25:35 "If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you."

    It was interesting how you didn't properly address the reasons why these people are on the streets. New Zealand has socialist policies such as the dole and state housing etc which would put a roof underneath these people's houses and an income, although very scant, is enough to survive on. Housing NZ tenancy agreements are different to the State Housing tenancy agreement. "In New Zealand the change of focus for state housing was from one of providing good quality social housing to working families to providing subsidised rental accommodation for welfare recipients."

    I admire your passion to reach out to the homeless and how you are making friends with them. Good entry

    -Alex

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment Alex! I agree with you when you say that the danger of individual achievement is more and more present is Western society. I guess that is why I didn't focus this blog post on a more intellectual discussion of the social and political reasons behind homelessness and poverty in NZ - I want people to emotionally empathise with, not rationally justify, the situations that people on the streets and in council flats are in. I think that discussion is for another day - this piece of writing was more an expression of a piece of my journey and how I have interacted with it.
      But in response to your statement "New Zealand has socialist policies such as the dole and state housing etc which would put a roof underneath these people's houses and an income, although very scant, is enough to survive on", I would like to point out that there are people out there who can't get a home through Housing NZ (which manages the state housing and flats in NZ), or once they do have a place to live they still struggle to pay for food and expenses on top of rent. I have a friend waiting on Housing NZ to process his application for a flat, and until they get him one he is sleeping at a backpackers. I have another friend who recently has been taken off the street and given a flat, but who still comes to our meals every week and the soup kitchen every night because his benefit doesn't cover the costs he needs to pay as well as groceries. And a lot of people merely have no hope and thus no motivation to get off the streets - they don't see the point, perhaps because they have depression or other mental illnesses, or they are deeply hurt in other ways. Whether the issues keeping people oppressed by poverty are financial, emotional, state-induced or self-induced, my point is that each of these people have a need to be loved and cared for just like you and I do, and the reason they are on the street or in a poverty-stricken environment doesn't change that fundamental need within their selves.

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