I have a name. I am a person.

Rethink Homelessness on November 26, 2014
Posted By: Dr. David Swanson – Senior Pastor, First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, FL

I will never forget the day it happened.  I was in my office going about my normal affairs when I heard some loud commotion coming from the street below my window.  As a downtown church, it is not unusual for such commotion to occur from time to time, but this seemed different – more urgent somehow.  I went downstairs to find several members of our staff trying to console a young woman who was crying hysterically.  Wailing.  Deep, wracking sobs.

I got her attention long enough to tell her I was the pastor of the church and I was there to help her.  At that, she quieted a bit and asked if we could go to a private place so she could talk to me.  I agreed, and we sat down in a room just off our main lobby.

She looked me in the eye and said with great conviction, “Look at me.  Look at me.”  “I am,” I said.  “No,” she replied.  “Really look at me.  See me.  I HAVE A NAME.  I AM A PERSON.”  The last words were uttered in a loud, almost pleading voice.

I have a name.  I am a person.  Penetrating words that have stuck with me ever since.  As she unraveled the story of her life for me over the next forty-five minutes, it was one of lost opportunities and falling through the cracks.  Over time, she had been shuffled from one agency to the next, one ministry to the next, until she ran out of options and wound up on the street – homeless.  Unable to care for her children, she sent them to relatives living in other cities.  Now, living alone in the woods, she had come to our church for help.  When she was told she needed to go down the street to the location of our homeless ministry, it was, in her mind, yet another “brush off” and she could not take one more.  She snapped.  She was desperate to be treated like a person.  She wanted someone, anyone, to know her – to see her – to realize she had a name – that she was a person.

At that moment, the words of Isaiah 43 came tumbling into my head.  She did have a name.  Andrea * (not her real name).  She was not an issue.  She was not a number.  She was a child of the living God, created by Him and for His pleasure.  She was precious and honored in His sight, and if I was truly walking with God, then I needed to see her in exactly that light.  God loved her personally, and I needed to as well.  I called her Andrea as many times as I could during our meeting, just to reinforce that idea.

Our church has served the homeless community in two primary ways:  through our downtown Compassion Corner, a weekday ministry that provides relational and spiritual nurture as well as access to basic services; and our weekly Sunday breakfast and worship service that we do in conjunction with Central Care Mission.  Both of these have been effective in many respects, but even so, it is still easy for us to get lost in dealing with an “issue”.  Poverty and Homelessness are words that represent real people, people who need to be seen as such – seen and heard and loved as children of the living God.  My life has not been the same since the day I met Andrea, and I pray that all of us will not look through or past the homeless, but recognize them as the sons and daughters of God that they are, worthy of our dignity, respect and love.I will never forget the day it happened.  I was in my office going about my normal affairs when I heard some loud commotion coming from the street below my window.  As a downtown church, it is not unusual for such commotion to occur from time to time, but this seemed different – more best online casino urgent somehow.  I went downstairs to find several members of our staff trying to console a young woman who was crying hysterically.  Wailing.  Deep, wracking sobs.

I got her attention long enough to tell her I was the pastor of the church and I was there to help her.  At that, she quieted a bit and asked if we could go to a private place so she could talk to me.  I agreed, and we sat down in a room just off our main lobby.  She looked me in the eye and said with great conviction, “Look at me.  Look at me.”  “I am,” I said.  “No,” she replied.  “Really look at me.  See me.  I HAVE A NAME.  I AM A PERSON.”  The last words were uttered in a loud, almost pleading voice.

I have a name.  I am a person.  Penetrating words that have stuck with me ever since.  As she unraveled the story of her life for me over the next forty-five minutes, it was one of lost opportunities and falling through the cracks.  Over time, she had been shuffled from one agency to the next, one ministry to the next, until she ran out of options and wound up on the street – homeless.  Unable to care for her children, she sent them to relatives living in other cities.  Now, living alone in the woods, she had come to our church for help.  When she was told she needed to go down the street to the location of our homeless ministry, it was, in her mind, yet another “brush off” and she could not take one more.  She snapped.  She was desperate to be treated like a person.  She wanted someone, anyone, to know her – to see her – to realize she had a name – that she was a person.

At that moment, the words of Isaiah 43 came tumbling into my head.  She did have a name.  Andrea * (not her real name).  She was not an issue.  She was not a number.  She was a child of the living God, created by Him and for His pleasure.  She was precious and honored in His sight, and if I was truly walking with God, then I needed to see her in exactly that light.  God loved her personally, and I needed to as well.  I called her Andrea as many times as I could during our meeting, just to reinforce that idea.

Our church has served the homeless community in two primary ways:  through our downtown Compassion Corner, a weekday ministry that provides relational and spiritual nurture as well as access to basic services; and our weekly Sunday breakfast and worship service that we do in conjunction with Central Care Mission.  Both of these have been effective in many respects, but even so, it is still easy for us to get lost in dealing with an “issue”.  Poverty and Homelessness are words that represent real people, people who need to be seen as such – seen and heard and loved as children of the living God.  My life has not been the same since the day I met Andrea, and I pray that all of us will not look through or past the homeless, but recognize them as the sons and daughters of God that they are, worthy of our dignity, respect and love.

#rethinkhomelessness

Loading Facebook Comments ...