Honesty. Brutal honesty. About life, about God, about you. One of my favorite things about street people is their transparency.
Yeah, most people think that they’re liars and cheaters, willing to say anything to get $5 from you or a ride somewhere. Really they’ll do anything to get out of work, right?
If there is one thing I’ve learned from the people I work with, it’s that it’s hard to not be transparent when you’re on the street. How can you keep secrets when your whole life is on display 24/7? I mean, their bedroom is our backyard. No privacy. How could you keep the fact that you’re on the streets a secret when a hundred people drove by and saw you freezing under the bridge last night? How can you move on from a criminal charge that happened 25 years ago when every employer and renter wants to know what happened? How can you get away from an abusive husband when the evidence is written in the bruise on your face?
The homeless have no choice but to be honest.
They’ll say straight to your face, “Why are you trying to help us? Everything you do hurts us?”
Sometimes, when you listen close, their honesty is truth. Maybe your church really isn’t the most accepting place for street people, maybe your lifestyle really is contributing to their poverty, maybe even your perception of God is hurting them.
I usually don’t have an answer for their honesty. But I can be brutally honest back. I can tell them that they are resilient for getting through the trials in their life, that they are loved by God and by us, and that they are valuable in the kingdom of God for just being themselves.
It’s time to be honest with ourselves. It’s time to rethink how we think about poor.