An old man, shivering underneath an old, torn coat and leaning up against the bench, gazed up at me with glazed over eyes that almost reflected his humbled heart. After a silence filled with unspoken words, the man said to me in a broken yet emboldened voice, “May God bless you.”
A man aggressively rattling a nearly empty cup at passersby looked upon me with fierce eyes and repeated my words with scorn. “Jesus loves me? Jesus loves me so you gave me a burger?” He snatched the bag from me, snorted and shuffled away.
Cheerfully strumming a guitar and belting out an old song, a man with a few stray dollars in an open guitar case tried desperately to captivate an ever-moving audience. Upon seeing what was set before him he let out a loud, “Ohhhh yeah!” and started dancing in place.
“Wait! Come back!” a voice called from around the corner and continued to follow down a particularly empty street in Washington D.C. After finally turning around, bracing for confrontation, a man in over-sized clothing and I were face to face. He held out his hand expectantly, and waited, retrieving the gift and whispering into his phone, “I got ‘em.”
These were the raw reactions of 4 of 10 homeless people upon receiving a single burger from McDonalds one very cold day on November 29, 2020.
It was about 11:45 am when my mother, Karla La Bianca and I, were walking through Washington D.C.. We were noticing many homeless men and women on the side of streets and actually walked right by multiple of them before seeing a McDonald’s building at the end of a street corner, with big windows probably once grand and reflective, now streaked with grease and unuse. Remembering the faces of the men and women in need, we felt pulled to go into McDonalds and buy food to pass out to the homeless. Although the moment was spontaneous and there probably should’ve been some hesitation before we stepped into the building, there was none. We stepped inside the empty building and ordered 10 single burgers all wrapped individually. The warm bags thawed our icy hands from our walk down the street of D.C., and as we headed outside and began the encounters...
Looking back on that cold Saturday, the contrasts between the reactions really caught me off guard, I thought to myself many of times “How can someone be so ungrateful?” But then I felt the Holy Spirit give me a pinch to realize how blessed I am to have a warm bed and home to go home to. I had never been homeless. I never had to worry about if I would have a next meal. I never had been so continuously ignored and pushed aside when in need. It doesn’t matter what their reaction was, for the fact is that whether they were “grateful or ungrateful” they were all in need, and somehow I believe a part of that need was met.
John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness can not overcome it”.
This was my prayer for our encounters, that no matter what the immediate outcome was, the seed was planted, the light was shown and the name of Jesus Christ was spoken.
One in five people in the United States alone are experiencing homelessness right now. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness in a single day an estimated 202,623 single adults experiencing homelessness are over age 50, putting them at a high risk of the COVID pandemic. With this coming winter and COVID cases rising, it is imperative that we reach out and help them.
I would encourage anyone and everyone reading up to this point, to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves, leave your comfort zone, and shine your light on those who need it. In this dark time of 2020, isn’t that an obligation?