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9-23-15 Adventist Pastor Lives on Streets of Washington, D.C.
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"Home" to the homeless  
As I walk the streets of downtown DC to observe and interact with the city's poor, I come across a handful of homeless that have gathered all their personal property on the corner of the busy, urban street. I use the term homeless in the traditional sense because for these three people, this is their home. 
 
Scattered all across the sidewalk like a yard sale on an early Spring day are all their belongings. Cardboard boxes filled with clothes. Pants hung over the sidewalk railing. Several backpacks lie next to a pile of shoes and two tarps cover whatever remains. 
 
As far as I can tell, three people call this metropolitan corner their home. One man sleeps on a cardboard bed under a ragged blanket. Another sits in a plastic chair talking on his phone while a woman paces endlessly back and forth engaged in a very animated discussion with herself. 
 
I cross the street to observe from a distance, turning over a milk crate to sit. As I do, another man passes, "Buy me something to eat sir?" I have nothing to give so he walks on without stopping. 
 
 
  Tim Madding, the author

As I watch hundreds of people blindly pass them by, I sit wondering: who are these people?  Where have they come from?  Why are they here? How long have they been on this street? Is anyone offering to help? Do they even want help? I come to the realization that I know very little about the plight of America's homeless. Then again, that's why I'm here spending seven days on the streets of our nation's capitol, eating in soup kitchens and sleeping wherever I can lay my head safely.  
 
Standing next to me, waiting for his bus, is an off duty security guard. I gather he stands here everyday so I approach him, asking about those across the street, "They sure do have a lot of stuff. They been there long?"
 
In disgust the guard replies, "They've been there three weeks. They use to be down the street in front of Hard Rock Cafe but they got kicked out of there. So they moved here."
 
I want to know more so I inquire, "What about the woman? What do you know of her?"
 
Waving his hand in a motion of demeaning judgment, "Oh, she's crazy!" Just then his bus comes and he heads home. 
 
I turn my attention again to the "home" across the street. Hundreds of people walk by. As they do, they look the other way. Everyone knows they're there but no one chooses to see them. Really see them. At least that I can see. 
 
It starts to rain and the woman begins putting things under a tarp. I need to get to a dry place for the night myself, so I walk on. 
 
I see the homeless differently now. It is so natural to want to look away and ignore them. To let someone else handle them. No more. I no longer see men and women to turn my face from, but sons and daughters of God who deserve to be valued, loved and helped. I don't claim to fully understand them or the best way to help, but I hope to learn how. 
 
-Story by Tim Madding, lead pastor of the Beltsville Seventh-day Adventist Church, who recently started the "Seven Days Without" sermon series which encourages members to live out their faith in practical ways. Visit sevendayswithout.com to follow Madding and learn more about the series.

 


 

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