A couple of weeks ago I was hanging out at Yale in New Haven, CT with a couple of friends. We were walking down one of the main streets and about to go into an ice cream place when a man called out to us.
“Hey, can any of you help me out? Even change will do.”
I just averted my eyes and kept walking. I don’t remember if I had money or not on me, but either way I completely ignored him, saying a quick prayer to try to feel a little better about myself,
“Lord, be with him.”
Then we continued on. I have to give a lot of credit to one of my friends, afterwards he actually went up to the homeless man and asked him his name. Me? I just kept walking, an ice cream cone in hand and fully determined to have a good time with my friends.
I’ve been thinking and praying about this event ever since. What sort of human being am I? Deliberately choosing not to even acknowledge someone who cried out for help. And even more hypocritically, I prayed asking God to be with him. But as a member of the Body of Christ, I am one of His hands and feet! When I don’t show up for people in need, then people think that God doesn’t show up. God gave me that opportunity to reveal His love for that man.
On top of it all, I’m a freaking Catholic missionary! It would absolutely make my day if one day a student cried out asking for help with life’s problems or something and I got to help him or her. I pray for those opportunities every day, but often they don’t present themselves. Now, this time, I had someone who really was in trouble and I did nothing to help. Not even acknowledging them as a person. Am I really helping to bring peace on earth when I act like that, or am I just kindling even greater social tensions?
Jesus told us that we serve Him personally when we serve the poor and needy. This isn’t just a nice suggestion but a matter of eternal consequences.
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” – Matthew 25:35-36
“Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” – Matthew 25:40
I need to foster a greater respect for the dignity of the poor and needy in my own life, especially the homeless.
The good news is that I have had really great experiences as well, for example last winter in Chicago I ran into a man who shared my name, Chris! He was very nice and yes he asked me for some money but I actually talked with him. It turns out that he used to work at O’Hare and was laid off. He is a veteran of the military as well, he showed me his drivers license to prove it because he was so excited about it. I asked him where he stayed and he said that he stays at the shelter that the Franciscans provide in Chicago. That was super crazy and I got all excited when I heard that because one (maybe two soon) of my college friends is a sister with the Franciscans of the Eucharist that helps out the poor in the city. He mentioned Fr. Bob, the CFR priest who helps them out.
If only all of my experiences were like that! Either way, this video inspired me to post my own experience that I’ve been praying about over the past couple of weeks. It really goes to show how much we don’t notice the homeless and how much more love we could potentially give them, instead of ignoring them.