Marginalized mean to be pushed to the margins, fringes, outside of society. People are who are marginalized in our society can have an addictions, mental illness, physical or mental disability, be a single mother, prostituted women, person with out a home, lonely, fatherless, abused, discarded, broken, hurting and bleeding.
These are the people that the followers of Jesus (you and me!) are called to love.
Yes, we are called to love everyone, but my understanding from reading the Bible is that God has given us specific calling to love marginalized people.
On Wednesday afternoon we handed over our keys, separated into groups of four and headed out of the door onto the street.
We knew that this was coming, so we had time to pack a bag, and prepare. For a more accurate experience we should have been unexpectedly kicked in the gut, robbed and thrown out onto the streets, alone.
Also since we knew this was coming some of us had picked up a sheet that had all the free food available in the city. Again a more accurate experience would have us start with out any knowledge of the resources, needing to discover them, when we are cold, tired, hungry and miserable.
Despite these limitations (and many more, such as knowing this would only last 48 hours, not having an addiction ect.) I felt that I was blessed with a deeper appreciation and insight into what some of the marginalized in our society have to live through.
We had to line up for our meals, sometimes waiting as long as an hour and a half.
Your whole day is centred around survival. Where am I going to eat and sleep?
Our first breakfast was basically broth and half a stale bun. We tried to go to another place to get food, but we were to late. It was difficult to function on such little nutrients.
The first night we started the night sleeping in a park, on the pavement because the grass was wet, until it started to rain.
We got up at 3am, and I had to go to the bathroom so we roamed the city looking for a public washroom, we found one in a McDonald's. Thank you God or I would have had to pee on the sidewalk.
Next time you smell urine on the streets, think of me, and ask yourself "is there anywhere for them to go to the bathroom?"
After finding the bathroom we tried to find some shelter. We found a store front that would fit us all. We tried to sleep there, but it was very noisy with traffic. At 6:30am a nice man woke us up by saying "wakey wakey time to get to work."
We wondered around for a bit before getting in line for breakfast.
After this night we had to go to class. We were expected to be alert and attentive. It was really difficult.
I can only imagine what it would be like if you are living on the streets and you need to do something like apply for a job or go to court. It would be extremely difficult to do alert and attentive.
Someone who might be trying to get off the streets can are at an disadvantage by the fact that they are living on the streets. It is a vicious cycle.
The second night we slept in a a different park.
I had a very bad sleep.
There was some kind of fight going on, the police and ambulance showed up. I was very scared. Not only was the fight situation frightening but I was tense the whole night afraid that the cops would find us and kick us out.
I was so tired I just wanted to sleep, I didn't mean anyone any harm, I just wanted to sleep.
Where do we expect some without a home to sleep? When the shelters are full, and they do fill up. It is illegal to sleep in parks and on the streets.
It is like saying to a homeless person "stop being homeless!"
On the streets there are more men than women. W hen homeless counts are done they count less women. This is not because there are no homeless women.Often instead of sleeping on the streets, because it is dangerous and it just plan sucks, many women stay in an abusive relationship, and/or are prostituted. Because of this inaccurate picture there are not enough beds in shelters for women.
We were blessed with decent weather. Yes, we had a little rain, but nothing compared to what it can be like.
Next time you are caught in the rain, think about those who are living in the rain.
Imagine being cold and wet, with no hope of drying off and getting warm.
Now try imagine need to "get your act together." How do you do things like get a job when you are tired, cold, dirty, and hungry.
This was me just after 48 hours.
Think about people who have been on the streets for longer, who often have additional barriers such as poor health, little to no self worth, little education, possibly a mental illness (a high percentage of people on the streets have a mental illness), a history of abuse (again a very high percentage of people do), and the list goes on and on.
This is not about making excuses for people. I just want you to take a moment to consider the reasons.
Everyone has a story. The majority of the people living on the streets have a stories filled with abuse, suffering and loneliness, to an degree that most of us have never come close to experiencing.
Before you make a judgment about someone, take time to learn their story.
I am thankful that I have had a brief glimpse into the lives of people living on the streets.
I am looking forward to hearing more peoples stories, so that I can grow in my compassion and love for the marginalized of our city.
The only way to truly love people is to enter into their world, join them in their suffering and hear their stories.
As Jesus did and continues to do.
2000 years ago Jesus entered into our world, suffered and listened to peoples stories. Since Jesus is alive today, He continues to be in our world, suffer with us, and listen to our stories, through His Spirit (that lives in us).
Jesus is God, He was in perfect Heaven. He left perfect heaven. He chose to lay down His rights and privileges in order to love us.
How can you in the place that God has placed you, chose to enter into someone's world, join them in their suffering and hear their stories. This will look different, depending on what community you are in.
I want to encourage you to honestly ask God "where do you want me to be? how do you want me to enter into the world of a the lost and broken? how can I join them in their suffering? and please bless me with hearing their stories."
I believe God will speak to you, all you have to do is ask, listen and obey!
There is so much blessing in living in this way, because it is in the laying down of our rights and privileges that we are with Jesus, the greatest joy and blessing of all!