My Homeless Friends, a guest post by Mike Keating
By Tiffany A. Parsons, Jul 31 2016 09:30PM
Guest Blogger, Mike Keating
This Wednesday I will once again get to spend time with a bunch of guys who currently have no place of their own to call home. I say “get to” intentionally, because being a Resident Assistant at the Hope Center is one of the best things I get to do. I’ve been serving in this way for a little over a year now and wanted to share some of what I’ve learned.
Lots in Common
If you only know homeless people from what Hollywood puts on a screen then you don’t know homeless people, especially homeless men. As I spend time talking with them it’s clear to me how much we have in common. None of them enjoy their situation or want to be homeless. Most have families that care for them and they love in return. all have hopes and dreams about what a brighter future would look like. If I knew my choices had serious negative impacts on people I loved I would be incredibly remorseful, and usually the men at the Hope Center are too. Those who have not spent time with homeless people tend to think they would have nothing to talk about if trapped in a room together for 30 minutes. I suspect that once the conversation started, he or she would be wanting another 30 minutes.
That isn’t to say we have everything in common. It’s no secret that most men who end up at a homeless shelter got there through decisions that they made. Generally the guys see their past screw ups as just that and don’t try to excuse them, but often they don’t really understand what really happened. As a biblical counselor, I sometimes see the problem before they do and have a great opportunity to help them see it too. Once they see it, they are generally pretty receptive to ideas to help minimize the chances that it happens again.
So close to the brink
The biggest thing I’ve learned about our society is just how many people are just one unexpected problem away from homelessness. I’m sure someone at Impact has some actual statistics, but most of the guys I have met were not perpetually homeless. Most found themselves homeless for the first time in their lives and usually it was a domino effect of one unexpected problem that caused it. It might be a medical situation, cutback at work or family need that they neither caused or contributed.
Here’s an example. One friend I met there had a long career in transportation. He was hanging out with family two family members got into a physical altercation. The only way he could think to keep everyone safe was to drive one of the parties home. He didn’t feel impaired but was stopped by the police and cited for DUI. That meant he lost his CDL and his livelihood. That created considerable conflict in his marriage that resulted in a separation, which resulted in him having to leave the house without any income to support himself. Looking back he could see it all clearly but at the time when he was emotionally invested in protecting his family it wasn’t so obvious. A few months earlier nobody on the planet would see his responsible lifestyle and contributions to the community and think it was a future homeless guy.
Chasing my own joy
The Apostle Paul records that Jesus said it is more blessed to give than to receive. The biblical idea of blessing is that of overall well-being or joy. Just about every time I am done with a shift at the Hope Center, I experience a lot more joy than I would have had I spent the time doing something more focused on myself. After serving this way for 15 months, it’s not hard to go to the Hope Center. It’s quite easy, because I’m generally a pretty selfish person. I want joy that lasts beyond the next Cleveland Cavs championship (GO CAVS), dinner at a nice restaurant, or episode of 24.
The test of faith is not whether we say something is true, it is whether we pursue something as true even when it doesn’t seem to be on the surface. If all of us really believed what Jesus said, we’d all be a lot more generous and a lot more happy at the same time.
Mike Keating is the Pastor of Living Stones Church in Carrollton, GA where he and his wife, Kristen, offer FREE Biblical Counseling. You can find more information about the church and counseling at www.wearelivingstones.net
He also writes his own blog that I, Tiff, encourage you to check out: https://michaelkeating.wordpress.com/
Want to learn more about becoming a Resident Assistant at HOPE? We invite you to visit HOPE one evening, and we can even arrange for it to be on an evening when you can also meet Mike! Give us a call (770) 834-4007 or sign up online: http://www.impactwestga.org/join-the-team
Thanks for sharing your life with the homeless, Mike, and for sharing your thoughts with us. Your conclusion about giving and joy is helpful.
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