It's easy for me to love people the way I want to love them. I want to look people in the eye and carefully listen to them. I want them to feel heard and valued. But what if the person I'm interacting with doesn't care that I listen carefully to them? In fact, I faced this issue with a good friend of mine. For a number of years he felt slighted by me as I didn't specifically walk over to him and address him when he walked into the room. For him, he felt love when someone immediately acknowledged him.
For what it's worth, and that's a lot in my book, Jesus changed the game for us on this one. We all know "love your neighbor as yourself." And as I stated above that's pretty straightforward. We all know how to love ourselves. But Jesus gave a new command to us when he said, "A new command I give you, love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." Well that upends whatever I think about love, and love now becomes what the recipient defines as love and not necessarily the giver. Of course this is so much richer and deeper than my simple analysis, but it helps with my smaller point.
Denver Moore drives this home again for me in Same Kind of Different as Me. Denver was the black homeless man whom other homeless men avoided. Suddenly he's confronted with two suburban white affluent volunteers at the local soup kitchen.
Lemme tell you what homeless people think about folks that help homeless people: When you homeless, you wonder *why* certain volunteers do what they do. What do they want? Everybody want somethin. For instance, when that couple come to the mission, I thought the man looked like the law. The way he dressed, the way he acted. Too high-class. His wife, too, at first. The way she acted, the way she treated people...she just looked too sophisticated. Wadn't the way she dressed. It was just something about the way she carried herself. And both of em was askin way too many questions.
While everybody else was fallin in love with em, I was what you call skeptical. I wadn't thinkin nothin evil. It was just that they didn't look like the type to come in and mess with the homeless. People like that may not feel it within themselves that they're better than you, but when you the one that's homeless, *you* feel like they feel like they're better than you.
What struck me was how these folks, Ron and Debbie Hall, looked past themselves to try to learn and understand how to love the homeless on their terms - despite the awkwardness at first. A good lesson for me here.
But these folks was different. One reason was they didn't come just on holidays. Most people don't want the homeless close to em - think they're dirty, or got some kinda disease, or maybe they think that kind of troubled life gon' rub off on em. They come at Christmas and Easter and Thansgivin and give you a little turkey and lukewarm gravy. Then they go home and gather round their own table and forget about you till the next time come around where they start feelin a little guilty 'cause they got so much to be thankful for.