On Thursday I had the chance to visit Hope Rescue Mission for their annual Thanksgiving meal. The mission serves around 250 people between the guys living there, their families, and others that come in off the street. The dining area was full as more than a hundred volunteers served plates of food and cleaned up after.
The crowd, and volunteers, spanned a range of ages, genders, and ethnic backgrounds. The local news arrived and taped a segment from the midst of the action. It was a moment of peace and inspiration. This is the time of year where we should be helping, serving, and giving thanks.
And yet, we know that it is a struggle.
Media, and social media, is fighting a war hundreds of years old. Cities are rocked with violence and protest. Police struggle to maintain order and recover some level of trust with the general public.
So, as a parent, believer, and writer, where do we begin?
The issue of racism is large and encompassing. As a white male, there are things that my sons and I will be able to do much more easily than other men of differing ethnic backgrounds. My sons will have opportunities based on their appearance and gender alone. They will enter school systems where teachers will not cringe or assume when they walk in the room.
At ages 6 and almost 2, they do not know any of this. They don’t see color, they see friends at a playground and on the baseball team. They trust and love, openly and honestly.
My goal is to keep it this way. My goal, as they grow, is to help them be good citizens and be socially conscious. I want them to be activists, to stand up for a kid being bullied and speak up when they see something wrong. I want them to be men of God, to lean on their faith when they are pressed in darkness, and praise when the sun rises again.
These thoughts were in my head as I stood against the wall watching the Thanksgiving meal at Hope. I found Steve Olivo, chaplain of the Mission, seated at his table and went to his side. We talked about the book and I mentioned that, with every interview I conduct, everyone has their own answer for poverty. He said:
Jesus is the answer. He changes people.
He is perfectly correct.
We can talk about systematic change, about societal shifts in power and political influence. We can reform the education system and encourage small businesses to create jobs in cities where they are needed. We can train police officers and public officials to be more aware of the cities they work in and communities they inhabit. We can empower those who suffer to make the gains they need to find happiness. These are all valid efforts.
They must all be capped by the perfect love of Jesus.
We are called to serve. To love. To give water to the thirsty and food to the hungry. We are called to meet needs and give of what we have since it is not ours anyway, merely provision from God. We are called to have the difficult conversations.
We know that grace is enough.
It is time for more churches to get their feet wet, to get involved, to be on the front lines. Too many are too content to stay in their buildings and have their meetings, to drop off donations monthly and go back to their existence.
It is time for believers to show the love we had modeled for us two thousand years ago.
Everyone is worth it. Communities can be rebuilt. Peace can spread like the fires that light up the night sky in cities around this country this week. Radical love and grace can change hearts. Hands can be held and fists lowered.
It can happen and, I believe, one day it will.