By Saramarie Wade
This is the final piece in a two-part series focusing on homelessness.
As the lingering snow melts and spring gradually begins, homelessness still remains a constant, unchanging issue- countless people are without a home and without a place to call their own.
The “least of these” refers to the homeless, marginalized, vulnerable and disadvantaged. There needs to be a bridge of understanding that the homeless are people first. In order to build this bridge, there needs to be more love-through-action shown in our communities. This love-through-action is no stranger to the Christian faith in which throughout Jesus’ ministry, it is the greatest representation of God’s love on Earth.
During the lengthy winter season, the Young Adult Ministry at Our Lady of Light parish, St. Albans, used the countless examples of Jesus’ ministry to show our love-through-action. We spearheaded a Winter Warmth Drive for the homeless with the goal of doing a Midnight Run in our community. Because of the parishioners generosity, we managed to collect more than six large bags of warm hats, scarves, gloves and coats.
In one weekend, the young adults assembled in our church hall to pack warm clothing and more than 25 individual sandwiches, chips and cold drinks as care packages to the homeless.
Many of us were motivated and excited as we readied ourselves for the adventure ahead. After our preparation, we began our Midnight Run and traveled to the hot-spot subway stations: 179 St., Parsons and Archer, and Sutphin Blvd., just to name a few.
Overall, the night was a major success. On behalf of the Young Adult Ministry, I can sincerely say that this night was not just a regular night. On this particular night, we saw the issue of homelessness and tried to do something about it in our own way.
This night was life-changing for many of us. When we handed the care-packages, we were able to speak to the homeless and hear about their touching stories of bravery, survival and steadfast faith.
The people whom we encountered on our Midnight Run were receptive and willing to share their life stories.
Doing this service project and being able to physically speak with many of the people showed me that homelessness is an issue that truly needs more awareness and understanding.
It fully confirmed to me that compassion comes at no cost. If compassion does not come with a cost, why are many of us not quick to heed the call of actively living out our faith and showing our love-through- action? Why aren’t we quick to heed the call of supporting and assisting the homeless, the mentally ill and the incarcerated?
In a world of alienation and turmoil, now is not the time to have “kindness fatigue” where we turn off our ability to feel for others. It causes us to detach from negative situations that doesn’t involve us while also dehumanizing our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
(Photos courtesy of Maxine Dinnall)
Acknowledge The Stranger
As we move from day-to-day, fast-paced New York life, the indifference gets conditioned within our own souls. We don’t see a reason to say hello to our fellow neighbor. We don’t see a reason to hold the door open for someone walking behind us. We don’t see a reason to even acknowledge our fellow brothers and sisters sleeping on the sidewalks, sitting in front of stores with signs, as well as people who look like they are having the worst day.
Before we know it, the homeless, the needy right in front of us become mere shadows rather than outstretched hands and glistening eyes just looking for a sense of acknowledgement. We, as people make our own socially constructed divide between “us” and “them” in which although we might not acknowledge the “stranger” we still acknowledge the fact that the homeless are different than us, inwardly telling ourselves that we won’t ever get to a breaking point, a point of severe weakness and fragility.
There is no price check when it comes to the value that God has for each of us. The issue with many of us not recognizing the “least of these” is understanding and perception.
There needs to be an understanding that the homeless are not always people who want to be in that condition or people who have fallen on hard time.
In the Gospel of Matthew 25:40, Jesus says, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.” There is great weight and power in these particular words that Jesus stated to the people of His time. There is great wonder in the fact that Jesus’ powerful words still reign of utmost importance in the times of today.
However, there is a difference between reading those words and refusing to act upon them. There is a difference between preaching those words and practicing what one preaches – a major difference.
This service project conducted by the Young Adult Ministry at Our Lady of Light Parish is just the beginning. This two-part series on homelessness is just the beginning of more awareness, more understanding and gaining a better perception of “the least of these.”
We cannot be ‘neutral.’ We need to be steadfast in our actions, our words and in our faith. Jesus Christ is not ‘neutral’- He is dedicated and passionate about the love that He has for each of God’s children. Jesus Christ is ‘out of the norm’ when He promotes standing out, rather than conforming. When it is difficult to “love ones neighbor,” look to Jesus as a guide, as an example for what love-through-action is supposed to look like.
Let us be leaders in a world of alienation and stand up for issues such as homelessness. Let us be stewards of change.
Saramarie Wade is a senior at The Mary Louis Academy, Jamaica Estates.