What happens when you can’t make people choose the right thing? You can put multiple good options in front of them, right underneath their nose even, and they still might choose the wrong path. In most cases they loose sight of what is beneficial for them and begin to chase after what they desire.
We’ve experienced this time and time again. Our hearts ache because we so desire for people to make good, wise decisions but we are not ultimately the ones making decisions for them. Our job then becomes to love people through these poor decisions and to teach them what it looks like to turn their mistakes made into lessons learned.
“To love someone is to show to them their beauty, their worth, their importance.” Jean Vanier
Most people we see on Sunday’s have a very low opinion of themselves. Whether that’s from a lifetime of drug use, living on the streets, or being looked down upon by the world, these thoughts and feelings begin to develop over time and never really leave a person. By coming down on a Sunday we’re attempting to put more hope back into their lives by showing them that they are loved and are worthy of having a conversation with.
Who can you show their worth to today?
“My life is just now starting to mean something to me.”
This comment was made just the other day by one of the guys we are working with. We have been able to provide him with housing, steady counseling sessions, different job opportunities, and people to walk beside him. He is in his 50s and has struggled with multiple addictions. He’s been homeless or living in an unstable situation for around 20 years now.
Time and time again, we find ourselves fighting for people when they do not really want to fight for themselves. But now, his life is starting to mean something to him. This is exactly what we fight for. So that our friends can see the meaning in their lives and so that they will fight for themselves!
We know he will still make mistakes and there will still be frustrations and failures that we must face with this man- because after all he is human. The bright side? Now we know it is not just us wanting something better for him, he wants this for himself! This may not seem like a big deal to some, but trust us- it’s monumental.
We all know that friendships require work. They require effort from both sides. They also require understanding, patience, love, communication and trust- what we are focusing on. When we begin to let someone in our lives, we typically find out whether or not they are trustworthy before completely opening that door. How does this same principle apply when we’re trying to build a friendship with someone that does not have much to offer? To wrap up this three-part blog, we want to mention a few different ways that we have attempted to build trust with the men and women in this particular situation.
Come back. Now, what we mean by this is that you physically showing up somewhere only to see them. You are not required to always bring something with you, but you actually being there will make an impact in their life.
Remember the little things. Time and time again we have found that many people just want someone to listen. When they finally find someone to listen, it will be extremely impactful when this person actually remembers the details of their story. (This is harder than it sounds, and sometimes could require you to write some of this information down)
Laugh with them. We all know that any good relationship requires a great deal of laughter and light-heartedness. Many homeless people have very intense backgrounds and struggles, so at first most of your time will be spent talking about this. But whenever you get the chance, find something to laugh about with them! It will spark a fire in the friendship and open their hearts even more.
Open up. One thing that we who “have it together” (and I use this term very loosely) are miserable at is being vulnerable with one another. Try to show the men and women your befriending that just because you have a roof over your head does not mean you are perfect- not even close.
We could keep going and develop a list of 100 different ways to develop the trust of someone, but this is just a start. We have seen that if you at least begin here that soon these people- who are the outcasts of society and have most likely sworn never to trust anyone again- will begin to open their lives to you. And that is where the journey truly begins!
Name: Kristen Minor
Where are you from? Tuscaloosa, AL (currently in Homewood)
Occupation? Student at Samford’s McWhorter School of Pharmacy
How did you hear about Urban Purpose? I attend Shades Mountain Baptist Church, where I’ve heard about Urban Purpose on several occasions.
Tell us about who you served with and why you came downtown today:
I served with a group of my fellow second year pharmacy students. We are taking an elective class called Exploring Medical Missions in pharmacy school. We were looking for a service project to do as a group in Birmingham and I brought up Urban Purpose as an option to serve. We decided this would be a wonderful way to step out of our comfort zone a little and serve others.
Tell us a little bit about what your experience was like downtown:
Our group as a whole really felt humbled and blessed to have the opportunity to serve with Urban Purpose. It was a reminder that people in our own community are in such need. We found it to be such an eye opening experience and have a renewed gratitude for all we have in our own lives. We really enjoyed serving this group of people and were so encouraged by their grateful attitudes. This organization has done an incredible job at building relationships and serving as witnesses to many of the homeless people over time. It’s amazing how people from such different backgrounds can relate to each other and communicate. We realized that no matter your place in life, (such as a group of pharmacy students or a wonderful group of Sunday School members to donate a meal), our common goal is loving others as Christ loved us, and following Jesus’ example of humbly serving others.
Check out this quick video update to catch up with us and hear some ways you can be praying with us. Here’s a word from Mark on what we’ve been doing lately…
Every Friday we’ll take turns sharing a little bit about what God is teaching us through our work with Urban Purpose. Thanks for taking the time to watch. We hope everyone has a great weekend. See you Sunday afternoon at 2:30pm!
-Jim & Mark