I read an article this week titled “Christmas belongs to the poor” by Jeff Goins. One of the parts that really stood out for me ironically was from an old Frasier rerun he caught on TV. On that episode Frasier forgot his wallet and several homeless people joined together to pay for his bill. One of the men shared with him the true spirit of Christmas. He said,“The rest of the year belongs to rich people with their fancy houses and expensive foreign cars, but Christmas, Christmas belongs to guys like us.”
This year has given me a different perspective on “rich.” It hasn’t worked out the way we had hoped or planned. My husband was laid off from his job and we are currently waiting out the last few weeks until his new job starts out of state …..while we’ve been living in my in-laws basement.
It’s been a year of new perspective that has brought even more humility.
We moved here for a job a year and a half ago from out of state and now ironically we will be moving again to another state very soon. We left the home I loved and that finally just sold ….this month, after many contracts that did not go through.
All is not lost, we have been able to spend a lot of time with my husband’s family. We are living in the same city for the first time in 12 years. Our boys have loved getting to spend lots of time with their cousins. I’ve also stepped out of my comfort zone in even more boldness to LIVE and explore my surroundings despite my circumstances or our bank statement.
I can now say I have a greater empathy and understanding for the face of welfare. Maybe it’s because I didn’t picture people like me in the equation. We were never high rollers before but we have always been blessed far above what we needed. I can no longer feel the same thoughts I once had at the sight of someone wearing really nice clothes as they purchase items with food stamps. I still wear nice clothes because I already own them. My kids do too.
Perception isn’t always reality.
It’s changed the way I look at people and their circumstances. As I drove off the expressway ramp a few months ago I saw a homeless man with a printed t-shirt that said something about him being homeless. He was also smoking a cigarette and drinking a gas station coffee. It would be so easy to look at him and judge.
I started to think….maybe someone bought him a hot drink because it was soooo cold outside that day, maybe the t-shirt was a creative way to get the word out that he needed help and maybe, just maybe, the cigarette in his hand was to him, what a mocha is to me.
Maybe… Maybe not. But that’s the thing, we aren’t responsible for how a person chooses to treat a gift or a hand out, they are. It’s our responsibility to take care of the poor, the widows and children.
A few weeks ago I met my friend Kelly as she did her weekly volunteering at The City Rescue Mission shelter for women and children in Lansing, Michigan.
That experience was humbling on so many levels. I was introduced to several of the workers and volunteers. They dedicate their time and talents to really making a difference in the lives of the women and children who walk through their doors. They know that every case is different and have to discern with the delicate balance of tough shell/ soft heart. They provide food, shelter and clothing for those in need but most importantly, they give hope.
We have been blessed enough that we have family to live with as we await the beginning of our new start. But these families and individuals didn’t have that same luxury.
As I followed Kelly around, we walked women upstairs to do their laundry, we stocked supplies, folded towels, put in loads of laundry, prepared the bedding for new arrivals and cleaned out lockers.
Some of them were full of belongings. We bagged up the items and put them in storage. Some of the women never come back to get their only possessions. It made me sad when I saw books, letters, and clothing as I wondered where that person was sleeping and if they were safe.
In the lobby area, there were two adorable little girls awaiting for their mom to come back from chapel as they helped create Christmas crafts. They were joyful and appeared to have adapted so well to their surroundings. They had the extra bonus of additional attention and love from the workers and volunteers.
I struggled to fight back emotion as I watched the girls run and play. It made me think of my boys and how blessed we are.
This economy has so many families living from paycheck to paycheck. This family could have been anyone I know or it could have been me.
So the story of Christmas with a Savior who chose to make his grand entrance so humbly into this world shows us that He can not only identify with the poor and those who feel outcast but that we all can share in the hope He brings for a better tomorrow.
That’s why it feels so good when we give to those less fortunate as we recognize the humbled as He was humbled and we bring hope as He brought hope.
Whose miracle is waiting for you?
Here is one of the many ways you can get involved wherever you live. Interfaith Hospitality Network is a national organization that houses the whole family (Many shelters to do not have the available accommodations for the dad or older teenage sons to stay with the rest of the family.) They house families weekly at different churches and volunteers can serve meals, play with kids, and being a listening ear, are just a few ways among the list to connect with someone in need.
And if you’re in Lansing please check out the City Rescue Mission.