|A Son’s Heart for the Homeless|
By Karen Foster
My 12-year-old son spins the small, round cage, removes a ball and shouts, “B-5.”
The adults quickly search their Bingo cards. One man’s weathered face lights up as he places a plastic chip on the B-5 square. Another man, whose blue stocking cap covers his stringy grey hair, sniffs. He is one space away from winning.
With the confidence of a TV-game show host, my son reaches for another ball. “G-65.”
“Bingo!” A middle-age woman raises her hand and grins, shy of two front teeth. My son approaches her table, catching a whiff of cigarette smoke, and offers her a wicker basket filled with prizes. She rummages through its contents — gloves, mini-flashlights, candy and plastic ponchos — before choosing a chocolate bar.
After the game, my son carefully maneuvers through the musty rolled-out sleeping bags in the church sanctuary and hands out the remaining prizes. Warm and well-fed, these homeless folks settled down for the night; thankful to be off the streets.
For the past few years, my son and I have participated in a homeless program organized by the Hospitality House of Grass Valley, California. From November through April, the homeless are bused to a different church each night where they are fed, housed, and given breakfast before being transported back downtown. One Tuesday of each month, my son and I take a homemade meal to the designated church in our neighborhood where we help serve the food and converse with the homeless folks.
After the people are served, my son walks around the room, refilling their cups with milk or juice. He pauses to answer their riddles or listen to a silly joke. Serving the homeless makes him feel good. But taking the time to “serve” versus dropping off the food also allows my son to see the worth of individuals regardless of their circumstances.
I knew my son had arrived at that conclusion when he told me, “The worst thing about being homeless is having people disrespect you for not having a job. If Jesus was on the earth today, he would be on the streets ministering to the homeless.”
One night in January, we were driving home when my son said, “I can’t imagine sleeping in a tent or cardboard box when it’s freezing outside. If they didn’t have the church to sleep in, I’d want to bring some of them home.”
It was that heart of compassion that I wanted to see developed in my young man. As he crawled beneath the warm blankets on his bed, I was thankful for our home and a lesson well learned.
Freelance writer Karen Foster has had articles published with Discipleship Journal, The Upper Room, One Woman's Story and A Secret Place.