File:Helping the homeless.jpg
(Image courtesy of
This update has been a long time in coming, so I'll just get right into it.

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to feed the homeless in Memphis.  We left my church Saturday morning, our bus filled with clothing, water, and hot dog buns.  The small group of us were on our way to
meet a larger group of other people from surrounding churches in Memphis, near the Fed Ex Forum.

When we got there, we set up the grill, the chairs, the tables, and the sound system.  It was a chilly morning, so I was glad I brought my coat, gloves, and hat.  (Down here, the locals call a winter stocking cap a "toboggan."  I was confused at first, because I never once saw anyone wear a sled....)

Once everything was set up, we divided into groups and began walking the streets, inviting people to our lunch and service.  The plan was to feed the homeless people hot dogs, water, and Little Debbie snacks for dessert.  As we told people what we were doing, and seeing them in their present state of homelessness, I was silent.  I quietly observed for a long time, just taking in the experience.  I volunteered at a homeless shelter in Philadelphia once with my football team, and have been to Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago, but homelessness is never something I will be able to comprehend fully.

After inviting several people we found, we went back to the empty lot where everything was set up.  I stood in the back and talked with one man who had just gotten out of jail and had been homeless for only a few weeks.  It was neat to be able to talk with him like I would any other human being.  The only difference was that he had run into trouble, and was now trying to get his life back on track.  (But am I so different?  Do I not run into trouble from time to time and try to get myself back on track?  To a degree, we all struggle with the same issues: we are all human.)

It was amazing to see how many hot dogs and snacks these people could eat.  I was amazed, yet saddened.  After lunch, we sang some songs, and then a couple people preached.  One man, not much older than me, spoke and he sounded identical to Martin Luther King, Jr.  He was studying at a seminary in Memphis and when he started speaking, people came out of houses and from holes in the ground (it seemed).  He was quite a speaker, and for the people to hear someone speak who was the same color as themselves was monumental.  It was incredible.  But what happened next was even more amazing.

My pastor told me to get in the van.  So I climbed in with him and a few others.  We drove only a few blocks and then turned down a lonely street.  We came to another empty lot across the street from a construction company.  On the empty lot was a shelter made of pieces of plastic, tarps, blankets, and sticks.  We got out of the van and someone called for Willie.  Suddenly, out stepped a thin man in a huge, worn out coat from inside the shelter.  Someone handed him another coat and a big Wal-Mart bag full of hot dogs, snacks, and water.  He said thank you half a dozen times and brought his hand to his eyes, and I thought he was crying.  Then, as quickly as we arrived, we left.

I felt bad that I didn't start crying or lamenting for this man, Willie.  Honestly, my first thought, when I saw his shelter, was, "Wow!  That looks like a sweet fort!"  But then I had to quickly remind myself that I chose to build forts when I was a kid, knowing that I would be able to sleep in a warm bed and eat my next meal inside four sturdy walls and under a roof.  This man did not get to choose when he wanted to go home - I did.  That heap of plastic was his home.  And, my oh my, was that a thought.

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves" (Philippians 2:3).