I have been wondering, I mean wandering, through the new-to-me neighborhoods of Bridgeport, Hyde Park, Bronzeville, Old Town, River North, and Westloop. Amidst the bustle of the friendly city, I have been finding myself struggling internally with my observations. Earlier this week, I saw a homeless man in a wheelchair on the train. You might ask how I knew he was homeless, and I would point out the too-big winter jacket, odd smell, and multiple bags that he carried with him. Among all these, what caught my eye were his hands; they looked raw, were shortened to almost the knuckle, and were black (not skin color, but his tissue).
It is fairly easy to spot those who “have” versus those who “do not have.” These people have to carry all their worldly belongings everywhere they go. I wonder how people can reach a point of hopelessness that they give up in their attempts to escape homelessness. Wonder about the painful experiences individuals must have gone through to turn to substance abuse, to cope and dull the sharp pangs of their past; Wonder what I can do. In the past few weeks, God has been convicting me of my less-than-grateful attitudes. As I recognize this population’s daily struggles, I realize it is more than I have ever had to endure in my entire lifetime.
In my personal struggle, with what I feel is my calling in the world and the homeless population, I recognize the importance of balancing safety and kindness, discerning the proper timing, and actions of carrying out what my calling is. I will offer some of my journaling from this semester that have helped me discern between these callings and how they play into the service I believe is my purpose in life. “How are we welcoming the ‘unwelcomables’? If I allow what I see to dictate how I feel, rather than asking God for discernment when to act, I fail to live the Gospel as Jesus intended. Do I make others feel welcomed the way I want to be welcomed? I struggle to have when others lack. I think, ‘What can I do?’ Preaching the Good News in addition to offering acts of kindness reveals the action of this Gospel. To embrace rawness of human brokenness amidst their vulnerable moments and admissions to their faults; to lift up their faces toward the One who redeems their souls despite those mistakes and shortcomings; to love in action and faith, that is my purpose.”
Amidst my wrestling with this large societal problem, I often hear my peers and myself complaining about minute hiccups of our privileged lives. Living in the city has called into question my priorities in life and how I am living out the Word in a real sense. If we are called to be active hands and feet of Jesus Christ, I need to change my attitude toward humility and gratitude. I think as humans, it can be very easy to gravitate towards focusing on the negative aspects of life. Yet, when we strive actively to choose thankfulness, we find a kind of contentment that is beyond human comprehension. All this does not diminish the pain or suffering with which everyone struggles. I recently have dealt with the heartbreak of seeing a very dear loved one begin to pass from this temporary world into the arms of eternity.
I cannot help every single homeless person I pass on the streets. But, I can smile at them. I can look them in the eyes to try to understand their pain. I can ask them how I can pray for them. I can treat them like the humans they are.
Thank you for listening to my internal w*nderings. I believe it is a healthy thing to process these types of issues in a more public manner. I hope that you are able to consider my personal struggles and how we can all contribute in our Spirit-led callings to the world around us. That is what off campus study is about. Yes, about exploring and having fun. But, it also includes widening our worldview to understand callings and purpose in the global perspective.
Stay tuned for the next post (coming very soon); I will be adding some of the fun portions of the last several weeks!
Fun fact: the featured image is from the Chicago History Museum that highlights the work of MLK Jr. I just really liked this quote that really emphasizes the importance of finding your vocation in whatever career you’re in.