Home for the Holidays
I wrote this entry a few years back for a Newsletter, and came across it by happenstance the other day. I tweaked it a bit and am posting as a blog entry (After all, it is a Throwback Thursday!).
As a Christmas present to me, please spend the next few minutes thinking and feeling!
How is it that we equate “home” so closely with “personal peace and security”? Picture a framed print of “Home Sweet Home” hanging on a wall, recall Dorothy repeating “There is no place like home”, or hum along with the WWII soldiers’ ballad as each dreamed that “I’ll be Home for Christmas” – and you can readily relate to the security and the “take for granted” comfort of home.
Now imagine the proverbial rug being pulled from beneath you, and you are suddenly confronted with the lack of a predictable home to return to each night.
You now have no personal possessions other than those you can carry around with you.
You have little or no credit or income, and unpaid bills that will follow you for years to come.
Imagine “cold”, I mean really bitter cold – as you seek shelter from the elements with minimal protective clothing or blankets – or you try to cuddle up in the back of an automobile or the corner of an abandoned house.
Imagine your responses to the frightening sounds of the unpredictable dark as you await the dawn of yet another cold and bleak day.
And then see your children looking to you to provide for them a sense of safety and security – a sense of a “normalcy”– despite it all. Can you experience any genuine sense of empathy for a person living in these shoes?
For all too many in our own Shenango Valley, this is not hyperbole, but the living nightmares of their daily realities. For each, the “Road to Homelessness” was not the same singular path. Instead it could have been paved with any number of factors that would collectively lead a person to experience such great loneliness and want. Causes we have become aware of vary from mental health fears and concerns, sudden loss of employment, or the impact of domestic violence – to illness and death, rejection by others, and/ or deep despair.
Life without a home is the common result.
Now consider once more the simple crèche manger scene welcoming the birth of Jesus Christ that we celebrate throughout the Christmas season. Evidenced by His very presence in and among the animals where His parents Mary and Joseph could gain warmth and shelter, we certainly can determine that Jesus understands and knows want, marginalization and homelessness.
And the Innkeeper in Bethlehem was probably a decent fellow just making a living like any one of us. But you have to wonder… if he had known that the baby to be born in his stable was going to become our Prince of Peace, would he have treated Mary and Joseph any differently when he told them there was “no room in the inn”…?
So I ask us to return to the realities existing in today’s Shenango Valley and the greater world. Whenever we see hunger and cold and illness and despair, do we make or save room in our own inns – our own hearts – which encourages and allows us to see God in each of those with want and need? Or do we turn our heads…?
Whenever we are confronted by our sudden or stark recognition of these struggles experienced by our marginalized and broken neighbors, do we respond in a nonjudgmental manner with compassionate and caring action?
Would we treat them differently if we believed they really “didn’t deserve the conditions” they have existed under? And should that even matter? After all, are we called to judge or to serve?
Finally, I believe I can probably fool you and society by pretending to fail to see the struggling person or the need; but in the end, I know God knows my heart just as He knew the heart of the Innkeeper. He knows your heart as well!
So how about this for a Christmas wish… May all of us recognize the many outward appearances that poverty takes around and among us – and act to eradicate homelessness, rejection and despair within our midst, replacing it with the comfort and security of a warm, welcoming, and stable “Home” for all.
Merry Christmas, from Joe Flecher, Board and staff.