For the last 15 years of my ministry I have worked intimately with homeless persons. That is, for the last 15 years I have actually gotten to know homeless persons by name and story. I've spent time hanging out, listening, caring, and to the extent possible cooperating with them in efforts at healing and developing greater hopes. In other words, about 15 years ago I moved away from the charity model of shoving a few coins at a homeless request just to get it out of my face. I moved towards relationships that require time and effort, conversation and mutual listening.
I have been a pastor in Seattle for 10 years, and in that time I have been deeply impressed with the efforts of those who want to end homelessness. For example, the pit-bull tenacity of SHARE, with its ceaseless efforts to create shelter opportunities for those in crisis, is inspiring. Their creation of Tent Cities, the homeless organizing for their own survival, is an example of courage in action. It is a model worthy of our support and certainly worthy of strong, united church and faith community support.
Real Change is also an inspiration. The newspaper created a model of employment so that homeless persons can assume responsibility for the creation of their own healing and hope. Vendors of Real Change not only maintain a job, but they also discover a community of care. It was Sigmund Freud who said that the two keys to mental health were to love and to work. I applaud Real Change and continue to be excited about their evolution into an organizing agent for structural, systemic change. There is, in my opinion, unlimited creative and imaginative power when homeless, poor, working and middle class persons unite to advocate for their common interest against the interests of the wealthy.
I have also been impressed with those homeless advocacy agencies both within the church and within government and nonprofits who tirelessly, day-in, day-out, advance legislative initiatives to change the political and financial priorities of capitalism. Advocates are always trying to humanize the system, to move it from a profit-centered hierarchy into a relationally centered network of mutuality. Such work cuts against the grain of our culture and is exceedingly difficult to accomplish. And yet there are those who offer the creativity of their life for just this purpose.
And finally, I am always in awe of those myriads of volunteers who week-in, week-out, offer their time, talent and treasure to feed the hungry at our area food banks and soup kitchens. The dedication and sacrifice of those volunteers are evidence for holiness on earth. Their love, in the face of such overwhelming difficulty, is humbling. Part of our summer blessings is to know that we are surrounded by heroes. Let's remember to give them our thanks with our own time, talent and treasure.