He turned seven last summer, but he is already far older than what many of us can imagine. He is homeless. I've had homeless students in my classroom before and each time my heart aches terribly for the trouble in their lives.
We often think of homelessness as a isolated problem but with it come a multitude of other problems and issues. It is hard enough when you are an adult but can you imagine going through this when you are seven years old? Unable to understand and/or articulate what they are feeling, the fear and anxiety which they are experiencing often exhibits itself through expressions of anger and frustration. Unable to "beat-up" the monster which has their family in it's grasp, they will often turn to a target they can "beat-up"... another child.
An email I received from our school social worker on this topic this past week said:
Research shows that HHM students on average, significantly under perform even their peers from the lowest socioeconomic level.
In the United States, the McKinney-Vento Act tries to provide for these students by guaranteeing that regardless of how many times the family changes residence, transportation will be provided so their children can remain enrolled at the same school for the remainder of the school year. It also provides for free lunch, school supplies and field trip funds amongst other things. School becomes the one stable factor in the very unstable lives of these children.
As Christians, we often focus on the hereafter rather than now. We want to talk to people about where they will spend eternity when their stomach is growling and they are living in fear, wondering where they will get their next meal or perhaps even where they will sleep that night. At the moment, they are not interested in eternity... they are interested in surviving this moment.
No, I am not suggesting that we pursue meeting the physical/emotional needs of people rather than the spiritual. Unfortunately that is what some well-meaning Christian organizations have done in the past and they have gradually neglected the spiritual needs of individuals. We need to minster to both! When Jesus knew 5,000 men plus women and children were hungry... he didn't deliver a sermon on how they needed to trust in God to give them food and send them on their way. He fed them! God provides for our physical needs as well as our spiritual and we need to do likewise for others.
The season of giving is fast approaching. Let us turn this into an opportunity to ask God how we can minister to those hurting in the world around us... not just spiritually but on a practical level as well. Ask God where He wants you to go. Don't do it so you look good or so your church attendance will grow. Don't do it to make yourself feel better. Instead, do it because it is the right thing to do. It is all apart of being the hands and feet of Christ in this world... and being a true reflection of Him. We call it... love.