God-check: What does ‘homeless’ look like?

Sometimes you just have to check yourself. I know I do. And when you don’t, sometimes God will do the checking. 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 a couple of months ago. 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. Maybe you could’ve used that money to eat.”

I’m not proud of it. In fact, I was immediately convicted about it.

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?

Here’s how God checked me on this: In 2012, with the economy the way it is, with the unemployment rate being as high 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 associates 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: To the believer, they all look like Christ. #enoughsaid

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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