I was asking around for someone to speak to our students about the issues surrounding homelessness last year and so I thought I’d ask one of my favorite volunteers, Anna, to talk about this because she worked at a local food pantry.
Her response, reminded me of a simple fact:
“Mike, I don’t work with people who are homeless. I work with people who are hungry.”
And there I was…making a huge assumption. Not everyone who uses a food pantry is homeless. A colleague in campus ministry even reminded me that they had set up a campus food pantry for any students who were in need. She recalled, “You’d be surprised at how often people would come—and they weren’t Joe College trying to save a buck on shopping. These were students who were desperately in need of a meal.”
So what other assumptions do we make about the poor? Some think they are lazy, or ignorant. Some think that they don’t have homes or families. Some think that it’s all there fault that they have ended up this way.
I remember working at a homeless banquet at St Paul the Apostle in Manhattan many years ago. The number of elderly people who came through that place was astounding. Clearly just people who ran out of money at the end of the month. They reminded me of family members and were good conversationalists around the table. They are often the hidden statistics that we never see–or just don’t want to admit that we do see them.
Today let us pray for those who go hungry–and for those who serve them. as I work in the food pantry in Vanceberg this week, I’ll be sure to remind myself of the people who will get this food and remember that they are filled with human dignity and that I can’t assume a thing about them.