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An Open Apology To Everyone Experiencing Homelessness

By March 19, 2018 One Comment

Can I ask you an important question?

What breaks your heart? If fact, if you have a heartbeat, you’ve experienced some type of heartache before.

Maybe it was a disappointment. Maybe it was some sort of loss. Maybe it was self-inflicted because of a bad decision. Maybe it was some type of relational hurt.

Whatever it was, you will never forget how that heartbreak felt.

Not to diminish personal heartbreaks, but I’m after a different type of answer in this blog.

I’m seeking to know what breaks your heart publicly? Most times when we think of heartbreak, we only think of it from a personal lens.

So for the sake of this blog, I would like for you to pause for a moment to consider another type of heartbreak.

Let’s look at it from a different viewpoint.

Let me ask you again. When you look out into the world, what breaks your heart?

Is it sex-trafficking? Is it racial division? Is it hungry children? Is it poverty or homelessness?

Whatever it is, it has to be something! If I can be completely honest, I am afraid that we are moving further and further away from empathy and into the abyss of apathy.

Yesterday, my friend and I visited Birmingham, AL after I walked tons of miles on behalf of the poor for #MAP18.

We visited the 16th Baptist Church and walked around the historical park across from it.

This is the same church where four little girls were killed when the church was bombed during the Civil Rights movement.

After soaking up both the deep tragedies and triumphs of Birmingham, we hopped in the car and drove to find people dealing with homelessness.

We encountered a few people. One lady dealing with a mental disability stood on the corner and literally used the restroom on herself. I suspect she did it because she had nowhere to go to relieve herself, and no support and community.

It broke my heart. Would that break your heart? To know that she was out there alone with no clothes and probably no medication or treatment?

Then we finally met Eric.

Eric is the reason I’m writing this apology.

I’ve worked in homelessness ministry for 14 years, but something about Eric broke my heart all over again.

He was walking down the street when I noticed him. He left one of his many bags sitting on the ground (which was a sign that he was possibly homeless).

I stopped the car and asked him if he needed some help. He responded, “Yeah, I do need some help carrying my bag.”

What I think Eric was really saying is, “I need someone. Anybody. Support.”

I parked, got out of the car, and carried his bags a few hundred feet to an empty park where he’d stay the night.

For some reason, he immediately opened up and began to share his story,

“I used to be a pharmacy student. I was on the right track, and I had a mental breakdown. In fact, here’s my medicine I have to take right here. I struggle with depression.”

After talking for a while, he paused and asked a question that I will never forget. He asked, “Who sent you all?” He then looked up towards heaven and said, “I know you all being here is divine.”

It kind of reminded me of the scripture when Jesus says, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Eric with a grateful disposition said, “You all are making me rich today. Keep loving people.”

What I think Mr. Eric was saying is, “Thank you for making me rich by stopping and noticing me in the ruins of my life. Thank you for not judging me and taking time to stop and make me rich by noticing that I exist. Thank you for praying with me when people use their bias to prey on me.”

After spending time with Eric, my heart broke again for the many people experiencing homelessness across this country. Therefore, I want to apologize to a community of people that constantly feels isolated and alone.

So here goes:

Today, I want to apologize to you if you’re experiencing homelessness and have been judged, overlooked, walked by, and abused by the words of people who have never walked in your shoes.

I apologize that you feel alone and like no one has been there for you.

I apologize that we live in a society that looks down on you when you can’t shower, brush your teeth, sleep in a bed, have a change of clothes, or meet some false expectations.

I apologize every single time you reached out, and literally got nothing in return.

I apologize when people look at you on the side of the road, and lock their doors and ride by.

I apologize that you somehow find yourself isolated, and are unable to trust the outside world.

I apologize that we have somehow overlooked your traumas and judged you when you developed a mental health issue and used substances to cope with life.

I apologize that some of us haven’t displayed the same love towards you that we want from God.

I apologize that you have to sometimes sleep outside when there are abandoned buildings all around you that could help you.

I apologize for every single time you were put out of a shelter, asked to provide ID when you didn’t have one, and shoved leftovers like you don’t have a preference(s).

I apologize we haven’t made you a priority in our country, and I apologize if you serve in our country and are still struggling to find benefits and housing.

I apologize that we haven’t allowed your plights to break our hearts to the point where we rise up and say enough is enough.

I apologize and I want you to know that I love you, and there are many others like me out here that love you.

I love you for being brave enough to weather your hardships sometimes with a smile and faith.

I admire you for having the courage to weather poverty and in many instances with deferred hope.

Today, I and thinking about you and what you to know my heart breaks for this plight.

I will continue to fight on your behalf.

This is my apology.

Your friend,

Terence

LBW

Author LBW

More posts by LBW

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Luann Barnes says:

    Thank you so much for this. Several years ago, I was driving to my third shift job and a gentleman was standing on the side of the exit with his sign. I didn’t have any money but I offered him my lunch. The look on his face broke my heart, like it had been days since anyone had been kind or spoken to him. I immediately felt ashamed of every time I had looked away or not been able to meet the eyes of someone in a similar situation. You don’t always get to know how or why someone falls on hard times and I think what would it take for me to end up there. It could be any one of us. Being poor or homeless subtracts nothing from being a person deserving of dignity. Thank you for all you do to remind us.

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