We used to live close to very busy “Round About” (or Rotunda if you’re from Costa Rica) on the main road into San Jose. This Rotunda has a fountain that runs most days. Some days we would see bums bathing in the fountain. My kids were fascinated by this. One day when we were driving around the Rotunda, the wind was blowing and the fountain was spraying all the cars on the East side of the fountain. As our car entered the spray, my kids scrambled too late to close the car windows and screamed “Ahhhhh Hobo Water!” when they got wet.
We see homeless people every day. And because of this, I make a mental point to notice them… even if they are just passed out on the sidewalk… because I don’t want to become insensitive to seeing them. I don’t want homeless people to just become part of the background or the landscape of living in Latin America. They are people too, they may be mentally ill or drug addicted, but they have parents and maybe other relatives who still wonder about them and care about them. No man is an island. Each person is born to a mother at the very least. No one is a throw-away.
Behind the mall near my house is a shanty town, a “precario.” If you drive through the street next to the precario there are signs warning you to slow down because children play in the street. One sign says, “none of our children are extras, please drive slowly.” I like that. Someone is making a point to the world. “We may be poor, but we love our children too!” I make a point to read every word of that sign, even though I have long ago memorized it, because I like that someone is taking care in their own way. I don’t want that sign to become invisible to my eyes.
On my daily commute from my kids’ school to the school where I teach English, I pass an empty lot. I’m sitting in traffic long enough to pay attention to that lot and the things that happen among the weeds and construction debris left from the demolition of the building that was once on that corner. Back in the far corner of the lot, a tile floor remains intact. Over the last few weeks, two or three hobos have set up camp on the tile floor in the corner. I look at them every day. I want to see the junk that they have accumulated. It’s treasure to them. I noted when they found a mattress. I noticed when they had a camp fire going. I saw when they finally hung a sort of curtain over the door of the hut. I laughed the day I saw a life sized, cardboard cut out of a woman advertising headache medicine propped up against the wall by the door. Trophy wife?
I think about that life and I wonder if it’s really that much different than the life that you and I lead. Most of us are on a life long mission to accumulate stuff. Our houses are full of stuff we never need and don’t really want, but we can’t throw anything away because “it’s mine!” How is our house full of fake flower arrangements and decorative bowls propped on useless side tables any different than the hobo house with the mattress and curtain door with the prized cardboard blonde holding a bottle of Tabcin? We may have paid more for our junk, but it’s still not coming with us when we leave this life. Our junk might look pretty in our eyes, but so does the grocery cart full of hub caps in the eyes of the homeless guy.
My point is, we aren’t all that different. When you pass a homeless someone on the street, don’t pretend you don’t see them. Don’t let them become the back ground of your commute to work. Look at them. Notice them. Think about them when you’re at work or driving home. Don’t let your heart be fatigued. These people matter to God, they should matter to you too.
“Don’t let your heart grow weary in doing good.” 2 Thessalonians 3:13
“Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for the urgent needs of others and not live unproductive lives.” Titus 3:14