Love is Never Late
I admit it; I’m a procrastinator when it comes to certain things. I still haven’t bought any presents for my family, sent Christmas cards or had time to focus on anything other than getting through the next couple weeks. Between two jobs, four kids, and many other responsibilities—time isn’t a luxury. However, this season of Advent is meant to focus our attention on waiting in anticipation and hope in Christ’s coming and his promise to return to finish the good work. This in turn, allows me to look beyond myself to those in need.
While Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission and many other ministries and non-profits might not have volunteer opportunities (due to a high-influx of volunteers each year during the Holidays), I’d like to encourage other ways to engage with folks you might see on the street or in need.
Prior to working for the Mission, I often felt a pang of guilt when I passed by someone on the street. Our culture has marginalized those in need, and now we don’t know how to engage. I felt guilty if I gave or didn’t give money and so I would just speed by and try to not make eye contact, which made me feel worse. The thing I didn’t understand was that I shouldn’t focus on the circumstance, but rather the human being made in God’s image asking for help.
One person that I’ve had regular contact with is Lori. Lori stands and pan-handles at an exit off of I-5 that I pass by every day on my way into work. I made it a point to always roll down my window while waiting at the light and just talk to her—ask her how her day was going. That interaction led to hearing about how she moved to Seattle and landed on hard times after an injury on the job. I asked if she needed a coat or food or anything else. This led me to pray for her every day as I passed by, whether she was there or not. I recently was talking to her and said, “hey, I’m praying for you”. She looked at me with that big smile of hers and replied, “Thank you- you know what? I just love Jesus. Thank you for always stopping to say hi and helping when you can—it means so much.”
This Season can stir up some emotions and thoughts toward those in need. Through the hustle and bustle of Christmas we can forget to help those who may be in extreme need. It’s NEVER too late to start. If you haven’t had an opportunity to serve, but would like to—just consider saying a Merry Christmas, or introducing yourself to someone on the street. It’s not always easy—but it doesn’t have to be. Or if you’d like to hand out something other than money, consider assemblinghygiene kits with your family or friends. Keep a few in the car and hand them out as needed. The thing I love about Jesus, is that he never seemed pressured by time. He arrived, loved and served when he was needed, which serves as a model for us during the Holidays.
-Nathan A. Ryan