Relationships are important. They are the building blocks of community. They help to break down barriers and judgments.
I used to think that starting a new relationship was easier for those who were considered extroverts. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized that extrovert or introvert relates more to our energy around people than how we actually interact and begin relationships.
Being in relationship with each other requires us to break outside of our comfort zone. We have to be willing to be vulnerable, sometimes with those we don’t know well, in order to know them better.
Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage.– Brene Brown
Over the past few years, I have found myself in an intentional relationship with the unhoused. I live in an area where the homeless crisis is 3x the state average. The 2019 point in time count of the homeless in Humboldt County, California was over 1,500 people. And, in the community I serve, McKinleyville, which is an unincorporated community and the third largest community in Humboldt County, counted 121 of that total number.
Like most communities in California, and the United States really, the unhoused are stereotyped as criminals, lazy, and dirty. The impacts of homelessness can be seen throughout most open space and public areas, where temporary camps have been placed. Garbage and human excrement often accompany these areas. And, while these impacts are highly visible, the houseless are often ignored and purposely unseen. How many times do we turn away from the man on the corner, with a sign begging for a handout? How often do we silently walk past someone sleeping on a bench in a bus stop, or against the side of a building facade?
My life changed 3 1/2 years ago when I chose to become in relationship with the unhoused. I began, along with my pastor, a ministry to serve those who were in need; those who were unhoused or food insecure; those who were at times considered the least in society. We offered a place to be, a place to stay warm and dry, and a place to get a little something to eat on a Saturday morning, for just a couple of hours.
Jesus said “Truly I tell you, whatever you did to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did to me.”Matthew 25: 40
I didn’t know how my life would be changed by that moment. I admit, looking back, I was a little scared. I had all the stereotypes running through my head, and while I didn’t believe them on the surface, there was a little voice inside my head that said “What if it’s true? What if I’m putting myself in danger?”
I truly thank God for helping me to see past all that; for helping me to choose these relationships. If I hadn’t allowed myself to be just a little vulnerable; if I hadn’t allowed others to be vulnerable with me, I would not have seen God in the eyes of so many people I now call friends.
There’s a popular Christian song called “Open the Eyes of my Heart, Lord” by Michael W. Smith – the first line going “Open the eyes of my heart, lord…I want to see you.” I Think what we find when we ask God to open our eyes, our hearts, our minds, to the possibility of relationships with others that we would not normally, or easily, have relationships with, we see God.