By TRACEY MICHAE’L LEWIS-GIGGETTS
Sometimes you just have to check yourself. I know I do. And when I don’t, sometimes God does the checking. For instance, I can easily find myself making snap judgments about people without any consideration of them and certainly without the compassion I profess to have. This very thing happened to me last year. Hubby and I were finally enjoying one of our first dates since having our daughter. We’d chosen to go see Tyler Perry’s “Madea Gets a Job.” Say what you want about TP, but hubby and I needed to do the whole laugh, cry, wave our hands thing and we knew that Madea would not disappoint in this regard.
As we were walking into the Liacouras Center here in Philly, we were approached by a woman who looked to be in her late 40s/early 50s. She wore jeans and a tank top and her hair was freshly twisted into neat Shirley Temple curls. She came up to my husband with her hand out and asked if we could spare any money. “I’m homeless,” she announced. Now my husband has a huge heart when it comes to this kind of thing so he pulls out a couple of dollars and hands it to the woman. She says “Thank you” and moves on down the line. Me? I’m afraid to say that I wasn’t so generous of heart in that moment. Skeptical, my first thought was… “Umm, lady. Your hair is perfectly curled. You look as though you just walked out the beauty salon a couple hours ago. Maybe you could’ve used that money to eat.”
Yeah. I’m not proud of it. In fact, I was immediately convicted about it.
You see I spend so much time worrying that my daughter will end up being one those kids. You know them. The psychological bullies. The ones who pre-judge people by what’s on the outside instead of the heart. Even worse, my heart wrenches at the thought that she might one day receive such judgment. And yet in this instance, I was the perpetrator that I so desperately wanted to prevent my child from being; from being victimized by.
Her hair? Really, Tracey? A family member could’ve done her hair. She could have been a participant in one of the many programs that help women get on their feet by providing them with beauty services, clothes for job interviews, etc. But no… me with all my privileges, all my going-to-see-Tyler Perry righteousness didn’t think about all that. How dare I?
So here’s how God checked me on this: In 2013, with an economy that fluctuates like waves on the high seas, with the unemployment rate being as ridiculous as it is (and even higher in the African-American community), the truth of the matter is…today’s homeless look very different than they did before. It’s not just the drunk on the corner or the addict sleeping under the expressway. Today’s homeless looks like the mother with three kids who used to work on the assembly line at Ford before she was laid off two years ago; the man with the associate’s degree who used to work at the post office or at the telephone company.
I’d wager that nearly 95% of the people reading this blog are one, two, three, or four checks away… one, two, three, or four tragedies away… from standing outside of the Liacouras Center themselves. Present company included.
At the end of the day, no matter how I think the homeless should look, there is only one characteristic that matters: In my faith, as a believer, they should look like Christ to me.
And that’s the lesson I want my daughter to learn from—to see in me.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ – Matthew 25:35-36, 40 NIV
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Tracey M. Lewis-Giggetts is a writer, editor and educator based out of the Philadelphia area. She is a wife to William and a mother to a beautiful two-year old little girl named MaKayla. You can find her on the web at www.traceymlewis.com.
1. The Pretty Red Door: A Mother Finds God’s Beauty Through the Eyes Of Her Child
2. Have A Little Talk With God: Searching For Religion In Motherhood
3. Gratitude: What I Learned About Motherhood and Life While On Public Assistance
4. With Families and Kids Starving, Republicans Try to Slash Food Stamps
You didn’t disappoint as usual Trace. Thank you for being so candid about your first reaction to the homeless woman. My husband and I have a soft spot for the homeless and have loved on them through different means. I pray that every one stops to listen when God shows us our hearts when it comes to the homeless. Even the ones who are homeless because of drugs and alcohol could use a heavy dose of compassion, love and patience. Not many people are REAL FO REAL about their feelings. Thank you!
Thanks, Mesha! You are so right. And I guess I have to ask myself…”so what if she DID spend money on getting her hair done?” How does that entitle me to look down on her? She still deserves my compassion. The same grace and compassion God extends to me DAILY as I navigate this life making choices that may or may not be the best.
This is a good, honest, piece. It took guts for the author to reveal her true feelings. What is faith for if we lack compassion?
Yesss! You nailed it. Our compassion is the EVIDENCE of our faith! Thanks for your comment!
Dear Tracey, the comment use to be that most Americans were just one pay check away from being homeless. I think we have to remember that many people are working, yet homeless. A shock for me years ago was seeing a family of five living in a motel room, under terrible conditions. Yes, they did have a roof over their head, but I wondered how long that roof would last, it was a small town and had the motel owner just been kind? I went home, never forgetting and feeling happy with what I had, and remembering I could do with less, and give more. Best to you, Barbara
Absolutely, Barbara! That was a huge takeaway for me also. To be grateful for what I have and to be willing to extend myself to others. Thanks for your feedback!
When I read what you write I always look to see if you are talking about me! If any of my stuff is in what you write about. The answer lies within and without for there is always some there. Thanks Baby!
Thanks, Paulette! I’m glad this resonated with you. 🙂
this is a great article. I encourage everyone who can PLEASE volunteer at your local food bank, shelter, or any organization which tries to hold it together for people in the gap. Sometimes time is way more valuable than money.
Good article; everyone has a story and is an individual
Wonderful! Took the “log” out of my eye.
Beautiful, We always need to check ourselves. God will always put us in check.
My family just moved into a place today after a year of homelessness. We moved from motel to family to motel as we could afford but the cost of living in a motel is so much that we couldn’t always afford it let alone save for deposit and rent. Finally there was an open room at the homeless shelter for families and we stayed there long enough to pay a deposit and rent and move out. It is incredibly degrading to stay in a shelter, staff look down on you, most of them not realizing that I make more money than they do and one unpaid sick leave put us on the streets and they could be in the same boat a month from now. Volunteers won’t even come in the same room. They whisper about us and hide, thinking they are doing something wonderful by cooking dinner when in reality we are capable of doing it ourselves. There were 5 families at the shelter with us. Not one “looked homeless” you would never know unless they told you. Women kept their hair done nicely, clean clothes and showered. these people were searching for work and apartments, they have to look nice all the time.
Thank you, Maggie. Praise God on moving into your home today! My experience was certainly a convicting one and your story solidifies that. Authentic, genuine compassion for each other HAS to be the order of the day. Because like you said…we all could be in that boat. In fact, we ARE in the same boat…the boat called LIFE. – TMLG