Big Sponsored Sleepout!
This morning I awoke in Trinity Methodist Church car park. Mercifully I was warm, even if a little damp. Around me lay the still bodies of others who had survived a night of makeshift making-do – of braving the cold and the rain – even if inspired by the promise of a bacon butty from the church kitchen at the end of this test of endurance.
A memory of the community police officer, clad in fluorescent yellow, had been a welcome sight in the early hours. It reminded me of our vulnerability – asleep in the open – and took me back to the evening before:Back then, we had heard from people from the York Road Project, as our two youth groups had asked questions about homelessness – and we had learned more about the issue we were raising awareness about by being sponsored to sleep rough.
Those who had been homeless spoke movingly from their hearts. And, by the grace of God, they had retained hope – and had managed to strive to continue their lives; they had not lost faith in human beings, in spite of how some human beings had treated them – and the way that treatment had, indeed, included heartless spite.Many of us are just a couple of steps away from being homeless, we learned. It can happen to anyone, when events conspire sufficiently. Those we met were people, like you and me. Yet people whose early nurturing had been deeply compromised by an absence of care, the early absence or loss of parents taking its toll. How we, as a society treat our most vulnerable and needy is, of course, an indication of just how human – how humane – a society we are. And, similarly, our individual response is a measure of our humanity.
Tonight I will enjoy the comparative luxury of a warm, dry and comfortable bed. The next time I encounter a person who is homeless I will be deeply challenged in my discipleship as I remember those words of Jesus:
Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me. (Matthew 25.40)