We had a good, busy day yesterday. We had a small party for Morgon’s belated birthday, and had our neighbors, Jerry and Erika’s family, and Rick and Katie’s family come over to go trick-or-treating in our neighborhood with us and hang out afterward.
I had to run to the grocery store for some lettuce for supper, and was asked by a cheerful homeless lady on my way out if she could wash my van windows for some change for something to eat. I was in a hurry, so I gave her a dollar and went on.
As I drove off, I had the thought, “Hey, why don’t you invite her for dinner?” By the time I had driven the two blocks to our street, I suddenly realized that part of me was working really hard to come up with all the reasons needed to not do something crazy like that; we were busy, had a lot to do to get ready for that evening, etc.
I got home and dropped the lettuce off, and told Ari what I was thinking. I asked Morgon if he minded having company come over for his birthday dinner, and when he figured out I was talking about a homeless lady, his eyes lit up and he got real excited.
“Yeah! That would be great!”
I drove back down to the grocery store and quickly found the lady, who was still hunting around, spray bottle in hand, for window-washing jobs.
“You’re back!” She smiled at me.
“Yeah, I was thinking about how you were asking for change for food. My family lives just a couple blocks from here, and my wife and I would be honored if you would come and eat dinner with us.”
“Oh,” she said, stunned. Then, apologetically, “I’m sorry, I have a husband.”
I grinned at her, “That’s ok, I have a wife.”
“But he’d have to come along too.”
She seemed genuinely confused at this point.
“So you’d take us to your house for supper?”
“Just for supper?”
“And then bring us back here?”
“Sure, I’d be happy to.”
She didn’t seem to know what to do with me. “It’s just that nobody’s ever offered to do that before. Why?”
“Well, we’re Christians, but I figure that we can talk about being Christians and changing the world all we want, but unless we’re ready to do something about it, it’s all just talk.”
She nodded. “Well, that makes sense. I’ll need to ask my husband, though, he’s across the parking lot here. You want to just drive over to that laundromat?”
So I drove over there, watching as she started trying to explain to a short, dark-haired man that some crazy young man was inviting them to supper at his house. He was pretty apprehensive, but she seemed to have warmed up to the idea, and coaxed him to come meet me.
I introduced myself and invited him personally, and they decided to come with me, though he was still pretty reluctant. I realized it was a mixture of distrust and embarrassment. They were hardly presentable, they said, and I reassured them the best I could that we really did want them in our house.
Their names were Billy and Jackie. Both in their early 50’s, I think. She is super friendly and loves to chat. As Billy says, “If she’s not talking, there’s usually nothing to talk about.” He has a braid threaded through his ballcap and kind eyes underneath his sunglasses.
So I took them home, introduced them to my family, and we sat down to some delicious homemade tacos. We had a great time chatting and sharing the meal. The boys were very polite, and Ari told me later that they were so excited about the guests coming that when they saw me drive up, they moved their plates to the coffee table in the living room to make room.
We got to know each other while we ate, found out where they were living (in an abandoned building a few blocks away), what they do in winter, how Jackie’s kids were doing, and other sundry topics.
Ari served up the homemade blackberry cobbler she made for Morgon’s birthday with ice cream for dessert.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve had anything like this,” Billy said.
They asked me to take them back to the store after the meal, and thanked me over and over. I told them that we had a great time, and I was really glad to meet them.
“Well, you certainly are a Christian,” Jackie declared. “Nobody ever does that.”
I looked her and Billy in the eye, “Well, I think that’s a real shame.”
And I do. I’m ashamed it’s taken me this long to do it, too. Sometimes it can be hard to get stuck at the first word in the label “homeless people”, and forget that it’s the second which is most important.
What does it cost us? Some comfort, and the risk of being taken advantage of. But when you’re talking about homelessness–or some other uncomfortable subject–over dinner, and it’s facing you from across the table, you’ve got to wrestle with some hard stuff. I think that wrestling is good.
We’re here to show the Love of Jesus to people, and I saw last night how powerful that can be. And I think that we as Christians can use a bit more risk and getting taken advantage of.