Friday, August 22, 2008

nudge . . . nudge . . . nudge

Several weeks ago, a friend sent out an email
about 'bags of grace.' He had heard about this
way of ministering to the homeless on our streets
from a devotion in a journal, and since he had
been wondering and wanting to do more than
just decide whether or not to give someone cash,
he decided to try it. It is a simple concept. A
little bag holding several items of food - 16 oz.
bottle of water; a can of sardines. a can of vienna
sausages, 1/2 sleeve of saltine crackers, and a pair
of white cotton socks (a homeless person told
him once that socks are like 'gold' on the street).
You could carry a bag in your purse, your coat
pocket, your briefcase. When someone asks you
for help, you hand them a bag of grace, which
also contains a card or list of agencies, shelters,
medical clinics, etc.

Nudge . . .

Then, I received the latest issue of 'Life and
Work' the magazine of the Church of Scotland.
In it was an article about Street Pastors, volunteers
(laity and clergy in several cities in Scotland, as
well as in Britain). Wearing high visibility jackets
and vests with 'Street Pastor' clearly marked, they
go out in pairs on Saturday night, to walk the
streets. They are not out to convert or preach,
simply to be a presence - to engage in conversation,
to assist people with practical help, to be hope
and compassion on streets not often filled with
these gifts. It's simple things they do - talk with
a young person who approaches them, offer a
pair of flip-flops to young women who have
taken off their dress shoes, picking up discarded
bottles (which can easily become weapons in
tense situations). In the neighborhoods they
have walked, crime has decreased, and people
respond positively to their presence.

Nudge . . . nudge . . .

And last Saturday night in Pittsburgh, while Bonnie
and I were walking back to the hotel after dinner,
we met a man in a red shirt who was looking at a
map. We stopped to ask if we could help, and he
smiled and said 'no, just learning my way around.'
He was a worker in a unique program, a partnership
between the city and downtown businesses, to offer
assistance to the homeless in the city. He carried a
walkie-talkie, a flashlight, some medical supplies
in a small bag on his belt. His job was to simply
walk the street, to check up on the homeless, to
see if they needed any assistance (medical or
otherwise), if they needed to know where they
could get a meal, or find shelter. A trained nurse,
he was now using his skills in a 'hospital on the
streets,' so to speak.

Nudge . . . nudge . . . nudge . . .

i wonder if God is trying to offer us new ways of
thinking, of serving, of being with the people who
are on our streets at night, whether they are folks
out for a good time, folks walking home after
dinner, folks who have no home only sidewalks
to walk on, sleep on, live on.

nudge . . . nudge . . . nudge . . .

(c) 2008 Thom M. Shuman

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