PJ’s Page –
One of my favorite things about this season are stories. I like to read Christmas books and watch Christmas movies. I like to tell stories of Christmases past and hear others stories as well.
In this issue of the Messenger, I’d like to offer you a story from our neighborhood. These are our neighbors….yours and mine….here in Broadview-Bitter Lake. I’ve changed their names to protect their privacy, but these stories were shared with me recently at a gathering of agencies and care providers in the neighborhood.
Bill and Wanda have two elementary aged children who are students at Broadview-Thomson School. Bill works two jobs and Wanda worked part time until about 6 months ago. Until very recently they had an apartment in the neighborhood and lived their days in ways that would be familiar to us. Wanda had some health issues that caused her to miss work, and she lost her job. Medical bills piled up as they did not have good insurance. It was not long before they lost their housing.
Bill has to take their one car to his two jobs, so in the morning Wanda and the kids hang out near the school until the first bell rings and the children have a safe place to be for the day. Wanda divides her time between the library and a few other warm/dry places in the neighborhood. The kids meet her at the library after school. They wait there until Bill comes to pick them up after he gets off work. They find what they can to eat in the neighborhood; sometimes it’s a lunch bag from Luther Memorial. At night, the family sleeps in their car in a neighborhood parking lot. Sometimes it’s in the church lot or the community center lot or the school lot.
There’s a small group of families who sleep in the school lot. The ones without cars sleep in the greenery and the parents take turns staying awake to keep watch.
These are our neighbors. Most of them don’t have homes because they had a very small safety net. Most of them have jobs. But affordable housing is in short supply in our city and the need is great.
This is why we are doing what we are doing. Because of Bill and Wanda and their children. Because of all of our unhomed neighbors. Because Jesus said that when we turn our backs on them, we turn our backs on him.
When we are tempted to resent the lack of parking or the dust or the noise or the inconvenience of the construction….let’s remember our neighbors who are sleeping outside….and be moved to be the presence of Christ to them.
In this season of Advent, we wait on Jesus to come among us. But we remember that he has come already and he gave his very life for us. We recall his words to us, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
May the words of Jesus, for whom we wait and for whom we long, enter our hearts and live through our lives, in this and every season.