Street Love - applying the 5 love languages to serving the poor and homeless (and ultimately everyone!)
Do those that come to The Relief Bus need the food and drinks we hand out? Yes. Is it handy for them to receive socks and hygiene kits? Absolutely. Do the individuals that we encounter during our Don’t Walk By outreach on Thursday nights need us to stop and talk with them, while hearing their stories and sharing a meal on the Sidewalk? For sure!
Yet, while loving parts of people in obviously tangible ways, we could be missing the entire goal that we are shooting for - and the root of it all - loving each person we encounter how they feel love.
In Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages, he writes about how there are 5 ways through which each of us feel love.
Words of Affirmation
Acts of Service
Personally, this way of thinking is constantly running through my mind in how I love my wife well. As much as I want to love her in the ways that I am best at expressing love, that doesn’t get me very far in loving her how she feels love.
For me, Physical Touch and Words of Affirmation are how I feel loved. So, if you pat me on the back and tell me I did a great job at something, then I am going completely smitten.
On the other hand, if someone were to give me a rolex, sure I’d think that it was really cool, but it’s not going to change my life in the way that a touch or word does.
For Renee, she craves Quality Time and Acts of Service. So, if I spend intentional time sitting down with her (void of other distractions) and clean the kitchen each night, then she is full of love. If she has love, then she can give love.
In the same way, as much as a cup of soup is helpful (and definitely needed) to our friends on the street, if the way they feel love is through Physical Touch, then ultimately we are doing a disservice to them if we don’t love them in the way that they feel love. So, in this case I would look to give someone a high-five or a hug.
Our goal should be to remember this and look for it in every interaction. Sometimes it takes a while of trying one thing or another until you find that person’s love language, but when you do it can literally change everything!
When someone feels love, it opens them up to give love!
You can’t give what you don’t have!
So, how can we do this?
As easy as it is for me to think that if I just go around hugging everyone, that it will enough. It simply won’t. I have to get outside of myself and love people at their level - how they feel love.
If I try hugging someone and they seem rigid and reclusive, then I am going to generally assume that Physical Touch isn’t on the top of their list. But, if I go above and beyond to serve them by cleaning their table and taking care of their trash when they are done, and they reply with much thanks and a smile, then Acts of Service is probably higher up the list.
Ultimately, it is our (mine and your) responsibility to find and help others find our specific love language. Once we know it in ourselves and in others, it is much easier to know and establish expectations. This isn’t privy to just what I do on the streets and for those who are in a relationship. Everyone needs love. Co-workers, friends, extended family, even the lady at the grocery store. How can we meet people where they are and love them well?
Unsure of your love language? Take the free quiz!
Now, let’s get out there and love well! Share this with anyone you think might enjoy!
Much love friends!