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Friday, July 12, 2024

Seeing the Unseen


It’s the lady sitting alone, talking to herself, at the bus stop you pass every day on the way to work. The foster kid who just packed their life into garbage bags and moved into another stranger’s home for the fourth time this year. The middle-aged man rummaging through the garbage can for a few smokable cigarette butts. The cashier at the local gas station that tries their best to get out a few kind sentences in English.

Our society’s citizens who can’t further our agendas most likely won’t vote for our favorite candidate. They aren’t able donate to our causes because they are the people that are in need of help. Many with lives marked by one trauma after another, having never fully recovered from the first. These are just some of the many unseen members of our society and community.

For most of us, life is pretty routine. Our parents encourage us to go to school, then college. We pick a career and look to get married. We make and save money in order to purchase the items that life tells us to. We start a family and purchase a golden retriever. We wrap this neat and tidy life behind a nice white picket fence.

Yet outside the picket fence and caught in the crevices of our community, there are people who are seriously struggling, not only struggling to pay bills and keep or find a roof over their head, as most of us are doing that these days, they are struggling to find the strength to get out of bed each day; struggling with personal hygiene; struggling with severe depression and hopelessness; struggling to find a dentist that will take out several rotten teeth without dental insurance; struggling with finding the will to keep living.

My wife and I have been doing street outreach for over a decade now. We’ve spent a good amount of time at local bus stops, train stations, and sitting with other people behind dilapidated strip malls. We’ve had the privilege of getting to know, listen to, and pray for people who are completely unlike us. Someone once told me, “It’s easy to dislike people from a distance. Once you get to know people up close, you realize how alike we really are and how one diagnosis, one phone call, one car accident could so suddenly cast us into living in another person’s shoes,” possibly becoming yourself a person that society would rather not see.

We’ve witnessed God transform people’s lives all beginning with simply seeing them and stopping for them. We’ve also witnessed people stay the same and even die out in the streets. Thankfully, they died knowing that someone else did care for them and tried to help them though. A well-known homeless woman in our community said something to me once that has stayed with me since, “Thank you for seeing me, no one sees me anymore or maybe they are just tired of seeing me.”

America has been a relatively generous nation from its very inception. We still rank in the top three of the most giving nations in the world. The early settlers fled oppression while yearning for religious freedom. They ultimately found it and their lives began overflowing with generosity as a result. Nearly 248 years later, we are just as generous. Despite many hurdles and a system that we can all agree does have its flaws, I personally hope and pray that we stay a generous people, willing to see the unseen and offer help where we can. We are a better people and a more just and fair society when we stop to give the unseen and vulnerable members of our society the dignity that we each deserve.

“Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.”

(Matthew 25:34-40)