Beautiful

So for years and years now, my church has helped out with Beautiful Feet Ministries, a homeless outreach organization that provides for spiritual and material needs as well as basic medical attention for homeless individuals on the outskirts of downtown Ft. Worth.  Every year on Christmas Eve morning, my church helps out by sorting clothes donations, praying for and with the homeless, and serving them lunch.  And in the particular ministries I’m in at my church, a few weeks ago we put together new socks stuffed with toiletries to hand out to them whenever they finish their lunch.  Also, our Knights of Columbus council cooks up a delicious Thanksgiving-esque lunch for the homeless (like…turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, roll, etc). Pretty cool stuff.

This was my third year in a row participating in helping out with Beautiful Feet.  I had the privilege of laying out an improved game plan on the sorting process.  Because man, when you have 100+ people trying to sort a bunch of clothes, it can get really hectic and chaotic when you don’t have some sort of system or game plan in place.  Yes, my engineering mind definitely kicked in when trying to improve this process.  I can honestly say that we accomplished our sorting, bagging, and storing tasks relatively efficiently (better than the last two years, haha) and had a bit of down time before we had a mini-service before serving lunch.

Actually, Beautiful Feet normally holds a service for the homeless prior to lunch time, but we had the unique opportunity in leading that service instead of Beautiful Feet personnel leading it.  And that was a really beautiful thing to be part of.

To start off the service, some of our youth led the singing of Christmas carols to just get everyone in the mood and in the Christmas spirit.  Our youth minister led an opening prayer and reflection.  The Beautiful Feet coordinator working with us asked us to find some people willing to give Christmas testimonies.  Our first testimony during the service was actually one of the homeless gentlemen.  He wanted to share a poem that he wrote about the first Christmas day.  The poem was just…beautiful!  It was beautiful because you could tell that he understood the meaning of Christmas and eloquently poem’d about it.  Better than I could.  And it turns out he loves writing poems because he shared some of his other works (like, published in a booklet he was carrying with him) with others.  Pretty neat!

We also had two other members of our group give a personal witness on what Christmas means to them.  I particularly like how one of them said that the days leading up to Christmas is a time of preparation, whether for family and friends to come over.  But ultimately, it is all preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ.  I hadn’t thought about how we spend all this time decorating for Christmas, making sure our house is clean for guests, and other holiday preparations…but…for what?  Why even prepare?  And the answer is…because we celebrate the coming of Christ!  Awesome 🙂  The other witness talk was about how she always travels around Christmas time and thus things are always hectic and crazy, kind of like when Mary and Joseph were traveling to Bethlehem and how crazy it must have been for them to not find a place to stay.  I like how she made that connection.

And then finally, our youth minister wrapped up with a reflection from the beginning of Luke 2 where we find the Nativity narrative.  The main message is that even in the chaos and craziness of our lives, no matter what we’re going through, we should keep Christ as our center like Mary and Joseph does away in a manger and beyond.  That to begin keeping Christ as our center and letting Him in our lives, we must say “yes” to Him like Mary does when the angel Gabriel speaks to her in Luke 1.  Her yes, “May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1: 38 NAB), lets Christ in…not just for Mary, but for the world!  Think about that and the immense “yes” her yes was.

Cool reflections and testimonies.

But, as cool as sorting out donated clothes and participating in a service are, I think my favorite part of doing it this year was right after the service and before lunch.  The main coordinator designated me as the one to hand out meal tickets so that the homeless can get their lunch.  So yes, I actually got to briefly interact with every homeless individual that was there.  Maybe my customer service skills kicked in, so I had a joyful smile in greeting them and handing them tickets.  But I found that my smile only grew bigger because…they were the ones to first give me a smile and say “Merry Christmas!” to me, and I could definitely see it in their eyes a sense of gratitude because they were going to receive a really delicious meal.  Kind of humbling really, because I wasn’t the only one helping out with the day’s effort yet here I am sharing a brief moment with every. single. one. of. them.  And that was really beautiful to see how gracious and thankful they all were.  I actually didn’t get to help serve lunch this time because I was busy handing out tickets.

You know, I live a comfortable, middle-class, first world life.  And that’s fine.  But truly, I can’t bring myself to live my life without at least remembering those who don’t have a roof over their head with no family to take care of them.  And in my current journey of faith, a stagnant faith gets nothing done–my response as a disciple of Jesus Christ is to put my faith into action–I’m…en fuego, if you will.  Thus, simply remembering the homeless isn’t enough…what can I do to help?  How may I serve?  And that’s what’s great about Beautiful Feet.  It gives me an opportunity during an opportune time of year to serve the homeless.  But! I don’t just serve them once year…  About once a month for the past year and a half, I’ve also helped with making peanut butter sandwiches that gets sent to another homeless ministry in Ft. Worth.  And yeah, since I’ve started helping out with Beautiful Feet, the thought of “hmm, what clothes in my closet can I donate?” is always in the back of my mind.  Psh, I don’t need a tax deduction from donating my clothes to like…Goodwill.  😉  Actually, I totally just donated like 5 pairs of pants that no longer fit me this past time so… I hope one of the homeless men get to enjoy them since I can’t anymore.

Anyway, I think that the temptation in thinking about the homeless is that they’re a bunch of low-lifes who can’t get their act together.  And you know what, I don’t really know their story until I actually get to talk to them personally.  But regardless of how they wound up in their situation, regardless of the steps they’re taking to get out of their current situation, regardless of homeless stereotypes…the least I can do is provide for their material needs and provide food for them…the least I can do is acknowledge them as human beings and give them dignity…personally.  I’m not gonna lie, I get in better touch with my humanity whenever I serve those who are less fortunate (like babies, kids, and elderly in a previous blog post).

So, I ask you, dear reader of my blog, to keep the homeless in your thoughts and prayers, especially this holiday season.  The local weather is going to be harshly cold and most likely wet if it isn’t already.  Let us be  grateful for what has been given to us…and remember those who aren’t as fortunate.  Hopefully, something stirs within us such that we’re called into action and that we answer that call.  Living a Christ-centered life and called to do God’s will, we must say “yes” like Mary.  Whatever we do for the least among us, we do for Christ (Matthew 25:31-46).

Merry Christmas and happy holidays!
– JD