By: Susan Naslund
Soon after my dad passed away, I asked his devoted caregiver if she would like to have my dad’s handsome bedroom set as a gift. She was overcome with gratitude and gladly accepted the much-needed furniture. She began to cry and gave me a big hug. My sister-in-law later remarked, “It is so fun to give her things.”
Last month, Foothills offered a place to sleep to several homeless guests through our participation in the Interfaith Shelter. In addition to beds, we provided a place to shower, delicious meals, daily morning transportation to the trolley and rides to the Laundromat, haircuts, a few items of clothing, and companionship.
The Missions Committee is grateful for the dedication of our congregation to offer compassion to a segment of our community that is not always easy to serve. Because the truth is, many of the homeless people in the program do not smell good. They are sometimes challenged by mental illness or lack good social skills. They can be demanding and seem unappreciative. It is not always fun to give them things.
Organizing all the people necessary to run the shelter is hard work, too. It requires so many volunteers to check in our guests, serve as overnight hosts, shop for groceries, cook homemade food, and take care of transportation needs. My confession is that about half way through the program this year, I began to wonder if being part of the Interfaith Shelter program was worth the work that I, and everyone else, was doing. It was disheartening to think that all of the work might be unappreciated.
At that point, however, I was reminded that Jesus did not say that only grateful, clean, nice, capable people are worthy of God’s love. We are not told to have compassion for others because they deserve it. We are simply told to care for others because they are in need.
Jesus said, “You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me." This is not permission to give up our call to be missional. Rather, scholars tell us Jesus was referring to this passage in Deuteronomy: “Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.”
The Interfaith Shelter will return again next year because the poor will surely be among us. I give many thanks to each of you at Foothills who has been openhanded toward our homeless guests. You have given without complaint. You have shown me what it truly means to give with a glad heart.