The Lucky Ones
"Compassion means going directly to those people and places where suffering is most acute and building a home there.
God's compassion is total, absolute, unconditional, without reservation.
It is the compassion of the one who keeps going to the most forgotten corners of the world, and who cannot rest as long as there are still human beings with tears in their eyes.
It is the compassion of a God who does not merely act as a servant, but expresses the divinity of God through servanthood."
[Henri Nouwen, Compassion]
The more time I spend at Hesed House (a homeless shelter in Aurora, Illinois), the more I grow in compassion. I'm technically participating in an internship here at the shelter, but to me this experience is so much more than a "resume stuffer." When I tell people about the work I'm doing, oftentimes their first response is, "Oh, that will look good on your resume." But that's not at all what this is about. To me, this experience is a practice in compassion. In my service to the people of Hesed House, I am learning what it means to think with compassion, to speak with compassion, and most importantly to live with compassion.
Pictured below is myself and two cuties I've had the pleasure of getting to know, play with, and cuddle with almost every day for the past two weeks of my time at the shelter. You'd never know it by the smiles on their faces, but these two children are homeless. They live with their single mother (who is an incredibly strong woman and an even more incredibly amazing mother, I might add) at Hesed House's transitional living center. Getting to know these children and their story on a deeper level is, to me, like getting to know Jesus on a deeper level. I see Him so clearly in them every day. Their innocence, their joy, and everything about them reminds me of my glorious Jesus.
After living in this shelter for two weeks now, I have found that my perspective on life is being to change, slowly but surely. My site partner/new friend Emily and I get the weekends off, providing us a chance to visit family or friends, check out the city of Chicago, or just get away for a while, if needed. It's amazing how much I have learned to appreciate little things like soap or even real silverware. Each weekend, as I sit in the perfectly air-conditioned houses of my friends in the Chicago area, with perfectly manicured lawns, or perfectly supplied cabinets and pantries, I think to myself, "Wow. This is incredible."
Before this experience, I never would have even considered any of those things to be "incredible." To me, they were necessities. Everyone had them, so why shouldn't I? Everyone had nice houses; why not me? And mostly every teen in my neighborhood got some sort of car for their 16th or 17th birthday, so don't I deserve one as well?
With a new perspective and a new desire for simplicity in my mind as a result of this experience, I look back and am pretty ashamed of the way I used to think and live. Now, I find myself driving down the street of a local neighborhood and thinking, Wow. Aren't all of these people lucky?, and I turn to Emily and say in awe, "Isn't it absolutely crazy to think that ALL of these people on this street have houses?!"
I'm starting to change the way I see this world and its people. I'm starting to realize that so many of the things I once considered necessities are actually the greatest of luxuries, and those who call these luxuries their own are truly the lucky ones.
It's time we start realizing just how lucky we are to have the things we have, whether those "things" be a house, a car, a family, a pet, or even a homeless shelter that gives you food and a place to sleep every single day. No matter what you have or don't have, you are lucky. Why? Because you are alive. You are alive and well. You are still breathing. And with each breath - in and out, in and out - comes a rush of hope and the promise of a better, brighter tomorrow.
You are ALIVE.
You'll never know how lucky you are until all you have is stripped away from you.
And no matter what, always find rest in the fact that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
For every pair of eyes who reads this, please say the following prayer for my family friends, Alex and Michelle. Lord, wrap Your loving arms around this beautiful couple. We are confused and saddened in this time as to why You would allow cancer to come into Alex's life, but we know in our hearts that "all things work for the good of those who love God, who have been called according to God's purpose" (Romans 8:28). We know, God, that You cannot control every part of our lives because if You did, then our lives wouldn't be our own. We also know, oh sweet Jesus, that You are here to love and protect us all the days of our lives. No matter where we find ourselves, You alone are our refuge and our safe haven. You alone are our God. Wrap Alex's wife Michelle in Your compassion and Your glory. Give her strength, clarity, and peace in this time of trial. Above all, let Your will be done.
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