Homeless (adjective): (of a person) without a home, and therefore typically living on the streets.
Homeness (noun): The condition of being a home; homeliness, domesticity.
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve others, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (NLT)” -Matthew 20:28
I have always wanted to help people. It’s something I’ve known I have been called to do for many years, now. For a long time I fought a losing battle of trying to find my passion vs. my purpose. There are many things we can feel passionately about, but feeling something due to passion doesn’t always mean it is the best option for us. Passion has gotten a lot of folks in unwanted trouble. However, when we find and serve our purpose, there is no greater way to honor The Lord. By fulfilling our purpose, we are doing exactly what God has individually created us to do. I know my purpose, in this lifetime, is to serve as many less fortunate people as possible.
For about five years I have had major aspirations and plans of creating a homelessness non-profit organization that eventually goes well beyond just clothing and feeding the homeless. The way I feel knowing so many people go without basic necessities hurts my heart. I don’t understand how we can live in a world where there are more than enough resources to go around, and take care of everyone, especially the children…but we don’t. I really don’t understand how we can live in the United States of America, and so many people here go without. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe everyone should be living the high life, but I do feel everyone should have clean water to drink, food to eat, clothes on their back, shoes on their feet, and a roof over their head. I don’t think anyone is undeserving of those basic living conditions. I believe I feel even more moved about homelessness, because of the verse that opened this post. How can Jesus, the Son of God, the only perfect man to ever walk this Earth, see fit that He serve others when it was He we should be serving? It really puts into perspective how nobody is ever too high and mighty to serve others.
This really all started my sophomore year of college. I was walking back to my dorm when I passed a homeless man in a wheelchair, outside of the CVS on Sheridan Road. Anyone who attended Loyola University Chicago probably remembers this same man. I was doing my usual routine of walking home after class to go get ready for work when I heard a man say “It’s a beautiful day today young lady. You should always smile!” I was a little confused and asked him if he was talking to me. He confirmed he was, I smiled, and told him to enjoy the beautiful day. It wasn’t until I got home that it really sunk in of what took place in the mini exchange I had with the homeless man. Here I was- a privileged young person who had the opportunity to be in college. But even more so a privileged human being who had clean clothes to wear, food to eat, water to drink, and a roof over my head…and a homeless man had to remind me to smile. It still blows my mind to this day how ungrateful I never knew I had been. How could I not be smiling when I had everything in the world to smile about? Why did it take a man who had practically nothing, to remind me I had everything and more? It was at that moment I recognized I needed to be a better person for myself. Even when I thought I was a nice and giving person, I realized I could be even nicer and give even more. I didn’t really know how I was going to go about this “new me” but I knew I had to start somewhere. The upcoming school year I signed up for a mentoring program called “GirlPOWER” through Loyola. The group aimed at encouraging elementary school girls, in underprivileged Chicago communities, to continue on the path of the importance of education. It was almost like having a little sister you mentored once a week on everything from academics to personal life. I enjoyed the program, and I really enjoyed hanging out with my little. After doing a semester of the program, many of the girls signed up for extracurricular activities, and we had to dismantle the group. It was bittersweet, because we wouldn’t get to see the little ones anymore, but it was a proud moment of knowing we encouraged them to sign up for the activities to keep themselves out of trouble. When this program ended, I once again was looking for somewhere or someone to lend a helping hand to.
I started attending Second Baptist Church downtown Evanston, IL in the Spring of my Junior year of college. It was while attending this church I learned of their Tuesday soup kitchen in the basement of the church. I decided to volunteer on a random Tuesday afternoon, since I was done with class early on Tuesdays, and only worked on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. I showed up early and I was able to help prepare the food. We made spaghetti, with dinner rolls, and salad for the meal. There was bottle water to drink, and hot chocolate as a dessert/a way to warm everyone up because it was the middle of February. When they opened the door, I was so shocked and so sad at how many people I saw enter the basement. I couldn’t believe so many homeless people lived in the area, or needed to travel to this church to have a hot meal that day. Some of the people were just parents that had fallen on hard times and needed the help to feed their children and themselves. I met so many awesome people that day. I learned how so many of us are just a paycheck away from being in the same position. I think it is a common stereotype that the homeless have made a bad decision somewhere in their lives that has landed them where they are. Thus, giving many the entitled attitudes of them deserving to be where they are. The more I made my way around the room after serving food, the more I wanted to break down and cry. The more I wanted to cry, the more I realized I had found what I wanted to change about the world. In all of the volunteer work I had done over the years, this one really hit me hard. I’m pretty sure it was at this exact moment I realized what I wanted to do with my life, but like a typical selfish young 20 something year old, I convinced myself that I didn’t have enough to give. It’s funny how we equate everything to money, not realizing that all we need to give is our time.
Fast forward a year and a half, and I was working as an IRA Administrator in Montana. I graduated with a degree in Sociology, and somehow ended up working in the financial world. I knew the job I was doing was strictly for a paycheck and not because I enjoyed it. However, I loved the company I worked for, I loved my coworkers, and the paycheck was paying the bills and student loans. I can’t express how long I had been job searching while working in this position for something that would put my degree to use. As much as I tried to avoid it being about the money, it seemed this was the first thing I looked for while job searching. It’s funny how hindsight is 20/20, because I now get why I never found what I was looking for. Searching for empty reasons will always bring up empty results. Fast forward two and a half years, here I am, a stay at home Mom, making “nothing” (monetary wise), but finally deciding to not make any more excuses and figure out how I can help others. I have started working on my business plan for this homelessness organization, and am praying to have it up in going within the next year or less.
The name of the organization will be “Operation Home(less)ness”. If you refer to the definitions in the beginning of the post, you will see the difference between the words “homeless” and “homeness” and the goal is to rid many of the word “less” in the middle. My current, simplified plan, is to start off with finding and collecting the basic necessities. Clothes, shoes, food, water, etc. I will plan to make “care packages” of these items so that I am able to pull them out and hand them out to people as I see them on the street. The long-term goal of this organization is to help people physically, mentally, spiritually, and financially. I want to eventually have something along the lines of a shelter that will teach people how to care for themselves in all aspects of a healthy life. I want them to leave the organization with more than just new clothes and food to eat for a few days. I want them to leave with spiritual guidance, a way to make money to get back on their feet, and at peace with themselves. For now, I will work on finding family, friends, and local companies that would like to help contribute to the cause. I know many people do not trust donating money to organizations because they do not know where it goes, and I am perfectly OK with people buying specific necessities to give. I am working on the mission statement, and once I have it figured out, I will create a web page, and social network accounts specifically for, Operation Home(less)ness, to start spreading the word of what people can do to help me get this organization up and going. I know this will take a lot of time, and dedication, but the time will pass anyway, so I might as well spend it helping others.
It is even more important to me for my daughter to grow up learning how important it is to serve others. If she learns anything from me, I want her to understand the amount of money she makes, will never define her as a person, but what she does with her time does. Of course I want her to be successful, but I also want her to put her success to use by redefining what we consider to be “successful” in this world. I want her to be thankful for everything she has been blessed with before she ever opens her mouth to complain about what she doesn’t have.
Above all, I want her to learn and understand at an early age, what took her mother 26 years to figure out: if Jesus Christ can serve the needy, there isn’t anything in the world that should make her ever look down on the less fortunate, or make excuses of how she is unable to help them herself.