Many of us are fortunate to have never experienced homelessness and hunger. Living in a nation of plenty, it can be quite easy to assume that those who are hungry and homeless did something to cause their own situation.  I myself am fortunate to have never gone hungry or without a comfortable roof over my head; I can say that because my father worked feverishly to assure that my sister and I never had to experience what he did growing up.

But then the market fell apart.  My little sister’s husband lost his six figure job that supported his family of six.  Then they lost their home; his truck was repossessed, and after living in a friend’s unheated basement they ended up moving in with our grandmother and aunt – into an already overcrowded house in need of serious repair.  Somewhere in there my sister filed for public assistance; it was mortifying for her husband who had been so exceptional at providing for his family.  The WIC, food stamps, and farmers market coupons came with a special set of glances, tones, and body language.  My sister has worked hard to protect the kids from our societal stigma of poverty.

Whether or not we recognize it, there is a line, “The Line”.  It is the line which most people struggle to keep their head above, and many fall below – the poverty line.  Sometimes we fall below due to the perfect storm of circumstances, and sometimes we are held below by systems of injustice.  During the month of March at St. Luke’s, we are presented with several opportunities to see this line.  Our mission with the Christian Center food pantry and International Dinner, our newly birthed mission with the Road Home, and our community garden are all invitations to see the hunger in our community.  We have the pleasant option of choosing to engage.  However, as we consider our option let us consider the words of Jesus, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’  “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:35-40

Jesus chose to identify with the marginalized, those that find themselves below the line in our community.  He continually invites us to engage with those on the margins, as the way of our own transformation.  Will we accept this invitation, to take on the suffering of the world? 

This coming week, as we practice mindfulness, I invite you to fully see the people you engage every day.  Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, be it the line at Starbucks, a conversation with a friend, or serving dinner to a homeless stranger at the Road Home – be present.  Don’t worry about being efficient and multitasking.  Let go of all else that vies for your attention and focus your attention on the other person, look them in the eye – see them, experience them, be witness to the divine in them.  Allow yourself to wonder about them, their life and their story. 

Then be conscious of your own feelings, how does this connection feel?  What did this experience of full presence do for you?  Spend time talking to God about what you have experienced.  Be sure to spend time focusing with God on the sources of your hesitation if you find yourself holding back or looking away.  Talk with God about how you may become a fully open conduit of God’s love and healing in the world.