There has been so much talk and justifiable outrage the last several weeks surrounding the separation of parents and children at the border—tragic images of children crying because they are away from home, without their parents, and scared. People in our country are rightfully incensed and calling for immediate action in a situation labeled “inhumane.”
The tragedy of the border situation should give us pause to think of other situations occurring every day in our country that likewise deserve our outrage and a similar call for action. For my family, the tragedy of this country’s foster care system is very real. The number of children sleeping in CPS offices or being placed in unfit foster homes is unbearable. For your family, it may be the tragedies of the homeless population, hungry children, refugees, or domestic abuse victims that seem almost unbearable. There are many, many among us who are vulnerable and suffering. How do we respond as parents and families facing so much hardship around us?
If only we could avoid being desensitized from the tragedies all around us every day and have a similar passion and outrage for all of the “least of these” whom we are called to serve. As believers, we are instructed to “learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:17).
It’s easy to be discouraged when you see the size of the problem. Or, maybe, we just don’t feel like we are equipped to help these people or don’t know how to begin implementing change. Or, if you are like me, it’s easy to decide you are too busy, place blame on the “system,” or justify inaction by assuming someone else will step up. But we also need to make sure our work as Christians is going further than expressing outrage and frustration on our social media posts.
This week, I was reminded of a homeless man in a wheelchair (pictured) whom I occasionally see on Saturday mornings at Paradise Bakery, where I go to get work done. The first time I ran across him, about a year ago, I was surprised when he rolled by in his wheelchair and parked a few tables away from me. I wasn’t surprised because he was homeless, but because he was in a relatively upscale restaurant in an upscale part of town. He could not have stuck out more.
I knew I had to go talk to him the second I saw him. I went and bought him a gift card, so I had a reason to stop by his table. I would love to tell you I sat there for hours talking with him about Jesus, and we were both changed people that day. Or that I had a Beth Moore moment, and the Lord told me to brush his hair, and I was obedient and the world was changed. Not the case. I stumbled over my words, tried to figure out his background, and, somehow, I just came off a touch awkward. I can only pray the Lord honored my intentions and this man knew my heart was in the right place.
The Lord has brought this man to my mind all week as I’ve seen the justifiable outrage related to the border situation. I’m reminded that we have people around us every single day who lack a voice, deserve our attention, and need our help. Why is it so easy to overlook these desperate situations? How often do we overcomplicate it and end up doing nothing instead of doing something—anything—as the Lord would have us to do?
We aren’t called to solve the foster-care problem on a national level, but we can solve it for one child. We probably cannot singlehandedly solve the homeless epidemic in our city, but we can make a difference to one guy at Paradise Bakery. I wonder what would happen if we would stop making the right “points” on social media and, instead, go out and take action, helping those the Lord has placed in our paths?
Seriously, can you imagine the impact we could make if a domestic abuse victim was given a fresh start or one hungry child was fed a meal for every social media post we have read condemning the “system” for not doing enough? Individually, we may not be able to eradicate the problem, but that’s not the Lord’s measuring stick for obedience or success. The Lord can work through us and do truly miraculous things when we get past the need to be right about an issue and instead choose to be righteous.
How do we raise our kids to see the injustice and hardships and not be immune? How do we best model compassion and action as followers of Christ? How do we know where to start? I remember questioning this years ago, knowing the Lord was calling me to do more. Like most of us, I was already serving to some degree through mission trips, my church, my tithe, or whatever. But I knew the Lord was telling me to get out of the boat and do more.
I wasn’t sure what that looked like, but someone told me to think of the one thing that keeps me awake at night and brings tears to my eyes when I think about how unfair this group is being treated—to think about the things I see on the news that I can’t get out of my head. That’s where I needed to start praying.
Where is he calling your family? Where is the place that you just can’t stand to think about without tearing up? Where your heart breaks when you really get quiet and pray?
We need to have the dialogue with our children about the real-life issues around us so that they develop a heart for serving others. And we need to train our kids to look for these opportunities around them—in their schools, driving around, in stores. We need to model this for them as well. Let the Lord instill in their lives a passion for helping others and seeing needs as they go about their day—not just on days we deem a service opportunity.
I’ll finish with this. Last Saturday morning, my husband and I went to Paradise Bakery to finish planning our family vacation. On our way out, I checked on my homeless friend, and he told me it had been a bad week. When I told him I would be praying for him, he shook his head and said, “That’s fine—but all I do is pray all day, and God never seems to hear or answer me.”
Taken aback, I had no real answer for him other than to say the Lord hears his every prayer, but often we don’t see the results of our prayer immediately. I left knowing that my answer was probably doctrinally correct, but also trite and insufficient.
I’ve prayed for him every day this week, praying that the Lord would reveal himself to this man in a tangible way. But I wonder—with him and others who are struggling—whether they would feel this way if every Christian they encountered (myself included) did what Jesus modeled and truly cared for their needs. Would they still feel God is distant? Or would they see Jesus very tangibly through us?
This week, let’s continue to pray for all the children on the border and those who have direct contact with them. As importantly, pray if you are called to help. And don’t just pray for this, but also pray for where the Lord would have you and your family directly impact a life around you. Let’s look at our social media accounts discerningly to see where we may need fewer words and more action.
And consider this: Would the world around you know you are a Christian if the only thing they saw is how you treated the marginalized?
The Lord has a specific calling on each of our families that nobody else can fulfill. We aren’t called to be right, but to be righteous.