How do you teach someone to have hope?

Quite often my commute home is through tear filled, streaky light, eyes.
Tonight was no different.

On the way home from every outreach, we have a debrief to talk about what we saw, felt, or experienced out on the streets that day. This helps us as a team to grow by seeing something we had at first only seen from our tiny perspective. Seeing it from each other’s eyes is so great because we are all different. How I see things is different from how my friend Michelle, for instance, sees things because of our different life experiences. .

I see things as someone who has been doing this full-time for 5 years, as a dad, a husband, a man, son, caucasian, midwesterner, good family background, Christian, … and the list could go on. When someone tells me something on the street, I have to wade through all of those past experiences in order to take in what I am being told, for better or worse. Sometimes it helps, and sometimes I have to push through those first thought judgments, in order to see each person for who they actually are, not just my label of who I am expecting them to be.

This is why it’s good to hear and try to feel life from different perspectives, because ultimately, it helps me grow in my capacity for loving and caring for the people we meet, because I can see how others see them too.

Tonight, during debrief, one of our volunteers, Michelle, posed this question that I love and is so much at the center of what we have the opportunity to be a part of each day we go out.

“How do you teach someone to have hope?”

She was having a conversation with a man who is hopeless. He sees no chance of anything changing for the better, because it’s been so bad for so long. Years and years of trying things and nothing working out, or even if something worked out, he ended up sabotaging himself from the beginning and becoming the catalyst of the failure.

This question is a killer. I’d say even more of a killer to someone like me, because, there is not one time in my life in which I have been hopeless. Instead of hopeless, I am hope-filled. Because of my eternal hope in Jesus, that provides me with so much easier access to hope everywhere else. Fertility issues? Yep, but look at my beautiful little girls. Job issues along the way, oh yeah, but wow, look where I get to be and what I get to do now! Parents are divorced, yes, crummy, but wow, I have a great family and we love each other despite all that… And on and on. I have hope and it is great, but then back to the question that our volunteer posed.

“How do you teach someone to have hope?”

Love well. Build relationship. Listen.

Our team did a phenomenal job loving this man and teaching hope tonight.
First off they showed up. Last week, Michelle and another volunteer Bill, met this man and scheduled to have dinner together again the next week. Skip to tonight and right on time our team met him and they were off. (He said he was waiting for this all week!). This is HUGE! The start of hope there, when you say you are going to be somewhere or do something, do it. That helps to build hope - especially for people who are use to people saying they will do something and it not happening. Hope is taught through intentional time, genuine love, and many other things along the way. But, the best part about it is there is time to walk along the road per se, or see it through to completion. We aren’t going anywhere. We as a whole are committed to loving him until he finds the hope he needs to move on.

This is where God has called us and we are committed to it!

We go out every week at the same time in order to build relationships. It’s not about giving out stuff, it’s about loving people well. Loving people like Jesus would love people if he were walking around NYC today.

That’s how I look at it each day. That’s how hope is built. And, that’s part of the reason why I end up crying as I drive home most days. I get to both personally and through my leading of others, rebuild hope in empty, dark, and deserted areas.
That’s amazing and I feel totally unworthy and humbly in tears that I was chosen to love people like this - especially when I am so flawed.

Thank you all for letting me show you things from my perspective and from that of my friends on the street. Please fight hard, like I have to daily, to push out the quick judgements we put on people without truly knowing them. Take the time every once in awhile to stop and hear their story - you never know what someone has gone through before you are encountering them in that place of solitude. Also, this isn’t just a homeless thing, this is a human being thing. This happens at work, church, and the nicest town in your area.

We label people based on one example of them - usually at their worst - and don’t give them a chance to grow past that.
Let’s do better.

Much love all!

The Frustration of the WHY

This week, as I celebrate my 5 year anniversary at
New York City Relief, I wrestle with something I’ve come to call “The frustration of the why”.

“Selah, what do I do when I go to work?”
“You help people.”

Yep. That’s it. My 4-year-old gets it, she hears about what I do each day and deducts that I help people that are need of receiving a form of “help” that they are having difficulty acquiring alone.

“But why? Why do I help people?”
Crickets. Chirp. Chirp. “I don’t know.” Selah resolves.

This is a question that comes up in my head often, mostly because what I do in my day to day is completely foreign to the norm and so often doesn’t have a defined “win”, that I grasp at the frustration of the WHY.

Why: For what reason or purpose?

For what reason or purpose am I waking up today? For what reason or purpose am I going to stand in the cold, hot, or rain - and ask a team that I lead to do the same? For what reason or purchase are we going to talk to strangers that may be too tired or frustrated or jaded by past “helpers” who didn’t follow through?

Why? Just why?

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you know that I’m a Christian.

Though that label shows itself through MANY different viewpoints, for the sake of what I’m writing about today, the best explanation of what “Christian” means is through my perspective of who God is - which I’ve come to find is that I see God differently than most.

I feel like a lot of people self-experience God as a 14-year-old teenager who just stole the family car, crashed it, and are enduring the wrath of parents who are in complete dismay and say things that they don’t mean out of utter lack of words, so they say the wrong words, “You are a complete failure. You never do anything right. Get out of my sight, I don’t want to see you right now.” Or, as a spouse who just took their work relationship too far and are being buried under the immense, suffocating weight of shame. Or simply, a viewpoint of God that is take it or leave it. “You do you” as they say. God is so distant and not practical that there is a “Why bother?” mindset.

If that is what you are expecting God to say or be, then the frustration of the why is probably too much to bare or there is no why because there is no feeling at all.

If you are living your life tiptoeing around, worried about the failure/punishment dynamic, then safety is your friend and it will be so hard to emerge out of that quicksand.

This is NOT how I view God or experience this life.
Thus also, proof of why my experience of life and what I do each day is foreign - but also amazing!

God is not shame. God is not fear.
The closest form of how I see and experience God is wrapped up in one word: Daddy.
Not father, not dad, but the smallest viewpoint, most intimate, most childish - Daddy.

You can’t say “daddy” without feeling small, young, or childlike.
Daddy isn’t the father figure that shows up when you are in trouble.

Parents don’t use “daddy” when threatening punishment or fear, it’s more like this:
“Just wait until your father gets home, he will deal with you then.”
“Do we need to call dad???”

Daddy is reserved for the intimate, the pain-healer, boo-boo kisser, snuggle expert, and ultimate place of protection and comfort.

This is how I witness and experience God as a Christian - and it literally breaks my heart when I (VERY OFTEN) experience those around me that have absolutely zero experience with this version of God.

Thus, this is how I relay and emulate my external life. This is WHY I live.

Because I have a super intimate, childlike and tangible understanding of God, in turn, I have a super intimate, childlike, and tangible relationship with those around me.

My internal WHY that is always circling my head, heart and actions is maybe if I can show you what it looks like to be loved like that (even a little bit), that you will desire that more and start to look for a God that is more like a daddy than an agent of shame.

So, 5 years in and so continually thankful for this place and people that are shaping me to see God as a child would.

Big, powerful, miraculous, yes… but never too big to comfort a scraped knee or the utter failure that is me each day.

Much love my friends.

Thank you for your genuine love, words, hugs, and encouragements for the past 5 years. Let’s keep it going!