After a discussion in the Broken Hearts office today, I thought the underlying topic would be helpful to share. Because we (BH, ministries, community development organizations) highlight the importance of relationship incessantly. Yet I’m sure many people see homelessness or drug addiction and think, “Really? Relationship is gonna fix that? How?”
It’s really hard to convince people that relationship (particularly when based from relationship with Jesus) has more impact than handing out food or giving someone money or housing alone.
Probably because transformational relationships take time and persistence for which most people don’t have the patience. Or because the breakdown of relationship at all levels as the foundation for these lifestyle problems hasn’t been understood.
So there’s a man we’ll call “Sean” who comes to the drop-in center a few times a week for classes and to meet with his case manager (who has been working with “Sean” for quite some time to convince him to get into transitional housing).
Sean has taken to visiting me weekly to chit chat and watch music videos of old R&B and soul artists. Sean has mental illness and therefore isn’t the easiest to hold conversations with, as he operates at a much younger age than his actual.
Today his case manager shared with me his refusal to get assistance with something he needs to do and said, “Who knows, maybe you can convince him.” Then we talked about his difficult with performing normal things necessary for taking care of ourselves. Doing laundry, taking public transportation.
Someone walking or driving past Sean, without knowing anything about him, might just see homelessness and think “lazy”, “strange”, or “get a job”. But Sean can’t get a job. Sean isn’t lazy, he’s like a 7 year old trying to navigate a grown-up world alone, with mental illness that keeps him from remembering exactly how to do laundry.
So what does this have to do with relationship? His case manager went on to tell me about the times he gave him a food gift certificate, but Sean wouldn’t brave ordering food unless someone was with him. He’s never done laundry unless his case manager was helping him. He can’t get on a bus without someone by his side.
I’m passionate about getting the Church connected with people in these situations to simply be their friends. Why? A friend can make the difference between Sean staying healthy, accomplishing errands, and having a home. All he needs is someone to be there and help him. Without that, he would have remained on the street. Without ongoing relationship, he could go back. And from a Christian perspective, friends who can help fill in gaps of broken relationships and lead him to the ultimate relationship (with God) can transform his life.
Sean has found friends at the drop-in center, people who dance, watch music videos, order Subway, and decorate t-shirts together. Add a few resources and that’s all it takes.
Not that hard, right??