Today I had one of those moments when everything stops, the background blurs, and the only thing I can see is the person in front of me - in near slow motion.

And it was EXACTLY what I needed.

Today was one of those hard days as an outreach organization. We go out "no matter what".

Rain, shine, snow, cold, volunteers in the plenty or no volunteers, rested, depleted, etc., you get the point. :)

If our friends on the street are there, so are we.

Today we were at The Bowery Mission's Tribeca campus providing clothing, resources, conversation, and a place of peace and safety for our guests for 5 hours.

We were able to clothe 138 people, have 1-on-1 intentional and transformational life care visits with 5 men and women, including extending a quick and tangible dose of hope to a man named Joseph who had become stuck in NYC and will be boarding a Greyhound bus tomorrow en route to an excited momma in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and then another man that is headed to detox!

All great things.

Stats are wonderful and they provide a snapshot into the life and health of an organization... but they miss out on so much of the brutal heartbreak that is tightly weaved into an organization like New York City Relief that serves some most vulnerable people of the largest city in America.

138 captures 414 items of clothing, but it doesn't capture the 2 people, a man, and a woman, who separately walked off of the streets and into a building completely shoe-less because last night as they slept their shoes were stolen.

138 captures an idea of each number being a person, but it misses the fact of what each of these people had to go through to become 1 of 138.

"I am in desperate need of clothing, I came from over an hour away - I called before coming - can I put my name on the list?"

"I'm sorry, it's 12:30pm, we started taking names at 9am and at this point, there are over 100 people on the list.

I can't guarantee that I will be able to get to you at this point. (Pause as the life and color leaves their face)

You are welcome to stay, have a seat, enjoy some coffee and pastries and I will do everything I can do to serve our other guests with dignity and speed so we can get to you before we have to leave."

Some stay and we do our absolute best - often staying late to see everyone.

Others leave, but not before expressing many words as the pain and frustration exit.

"You don't know what it's like, you don't care about us."

"It's because I'm (insert every race)"

"Fuck you. You're evil and God will punish you for this."

And many other words. Painful words that I don't hold against them at all - pain does a bad thing for the human mouth... but it still hurts the heart. :(

138 is a number that misses out on the man that is really hard to have patience with, but all he wants deep down is to have someone to talk with and be heard because he has no one to listen or care.

138 doesn't capture the woman that only speaks Cantonese, but for some reason, she has adopted you as a quasi grandson and now showers you with unknown flavored candies - I always try them. :)

138 misses the intentionality that goes into capturing a room of 100+ in conversation, dance parties, pop-trivia with both imaginary points and my kids' leftover holiday candy as prizes, and real talk of "we are here to help, we truly love you and are cheering for the day that you no longer have to come here, put your name on a list, and wait 2 hours for 3 items of clothing.".

Despite all of that happening. Today.         Less than 12 hours ago...

My heart is overjoyed by the words of a prophet, a homeless prophet who in the midst of this, as I was walking around handing out chocolate Easter eggs pulled me in and said with purpose and peace behind his words:

"Brett, God wants you to know that He is so proud of you for how you care for and take care of us. You love us.                            Thank you. Thank you all for loving us."

I didn't break down right there, but I was close.

"Thank you. Can I give you a hug?"

"He's (God) so proud of you." he whispers before our hug ends and he leaves.

138 doesn't capture that, but wow, I wish it did, it needs to.

Day after day. This "work" is so different. Amazing. Heart-crushing. Depressing. Painful, stressful, successful, and often the opposite of successful.

But at the end of the day, 138 people had the opportunity to feel seen, cared for, and loved - some for the first time in ever. I want this so bad for our guests. This echoing encounter with love - a love that conquers pain, heals trauma and makes the broken pieces come back together.

"The homeless are not a problem to be solved, they are a portal to the heart of God."

- Richard Galloway

I want to experience that truth and peace-filled heart... and more than just experience it and then leave, I want to live in this place forever.

Much love my friends.

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!