Food and Faith is a blog of the Presbyterian Hunger Program.
A few weeks ago I attended the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless’ Legislative Action day. We took over the state house to talk about the importance of stable housing, especially for families, and for shelters and services specifically for young people (under age 24.) It was a moving and powerful day, where people who have or currently are experiencing homelessness shared stories, and we heard about all of the ways we could get involved and what to talk to our representatives about.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the room when mother after mother got up, with strength and courage, to talk about having to live in the train station with her newborn son, or live out of a motel with her ten year old daughter, with no room to cook or play. I can’t imagine the emotional and physical stress involved with not having a permanent place to just be.
I came home and told my roommates and fellow Young Adult Volunteers all about it, and how moved I was—already someone with a bleeding heart for the injustices in this world. The stories told by people my age were especially poignant, and made me incredibly grateful for everything I have. I remember vividly the young woman who spoke so passionately about just wanting to be treated as a human. And of course the mothers talking about how they just want to take care of their children.
Then one of my roommates mentioned off-hand— what does it say about us, that we can’t even take care of mothers and children, the people we consider to be the most vulnerable in society. That we can’t provide the basic staples of life—shelter, healthy food—for those we are all supposed to care about and protect. No wonder there’s virtually nothing for homeless adult males.
People can talk about how this country was founded on Christian morals and the importance of family values, but then we actually have to follow through. The fact that in Massachusetts alone there are over 19,000 people experiencing homeless should make us mad and our faith should move us to action. Once our hearts are broken when we learn that, according to the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, there are over 5,000 students in Massachusetts public high schools experiencing homelessness and not in custody of a parent or legal guardian we cannot unlearn or forget and we must do something about it.
Forget the “American Dream” so often referenced by politicians talking about striving for success. How wonderful would it be if we could just meet everyone’s basic human needs and rights—a safe place to sleep and enough food to eat.
I believe Jesus really meant it when he said that what we do for the least of these we do for him, whether or not we feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, and visit the sick. As Christians we don’t seem to be doing such a great job. What does it say about us?