Tonight, I'm catching up on my friend Jake's blog. Jake is serving abroad in Nicaragua for the summer. As I was reading, I sat alone in the dining room of the homeless shelter. I felt a tap at my shoulder. It was my little friend: the sassiest, cutest of six-year-olds. She always seemed to be just around the corner.
"Can I sit on your lap?" she asked in the sweetest voice. "What are you reading? Who are those kids in that picture? Can I touch your computer?"
It's always an interview with her. Question after question after question.
"My friend Jake is helping little kids in another country. That's him with some of the children he's living with. He's friends with them, just like I'm friends with you."
"Right, we're sisters," she said. "Forever and ever."
"Of course," I agreed. "But you know, there's something special about these kids. These kids don't have parents. They're orphans."
"They have no parents? Where are their parents?! Oh no, that's not good!"
Immediately, she called her friends over, a nine-year-old and another six-year-old, both of whom are also homeless. "Look, look!" she said. "Look at these little kids. Did you know that they don't have any parents? That's very sad."
I watched as their smiles turned to frowns and their brows began to furrow. They understood. "No mommy? No daddy?" One homeless child teaching two other homeless children about kids who have it even worse than they do, which (admittedly) is very hard to beat because I know first-hand how much suffering these kids and their families endure on a daily basis.
There they were, three homeless children realizing for probably the first time that their situation could always be worse, and that they should be grateful that they even have parents at all because so many children just aren't that lucky.
Living at this homeless shelter for the past four weeks has given me a whole new perspective on life. What was once a serious issue in my life, I now see as a minor stumbling block. This shelter and its people have taught me to be grateful for what I have, to forgive quickly, to love deeply, and to live joyfully. I mean, who wouldn't be joyful when you're constantly surrounded by these kids all day, every day?
Jesus says in John 16:33, "In this life, you will have trouble..." If you are a human being, you are bound to face some sort of struggle. Some of us are homeless; others are orphans. Yet - as my homeless friend Mike said the other day - "It doesn't matter how many times life throws you to the ground. All that matters is that you get back up."
For the past four weeks, I've watched families at this shelter make the most of what they have. I've watched them find joy in the little things...in each other, in a warm meal, in a sunny day. I've watched them put a smile on their face even though they've never had a place to call their own, or they work two jobs with little pay and a whole family to take care of. They've shown me that it doesn't matter how many times you've fallen apart in this life. What matters is how many times you've tried to put the pieces of your broken heart back together, standing tall once again.
So yes, your situation could be much worse. But the real lesson I'm trying to share here is the concept that a smile and a little bit of hope is all the strength you need to get you through each and every hardship you face, no matter how big or how small. Oh, and Jesus, too. He's a pretty cool dude. Let's go back to John 16:33, where Jesus says, "In this life, you will have trouble..." This part is important, but what means the most to me is the second part. "In this life, you will have trouble...but take heart! For I have overcome the world."
In this world, you will have trouble, but take heart! Be happy! Have hope! Jesus has already made up for each of your weaknesses. He has already won. Because of Him, the victory is OURS. We are victorious.
Song of the Week: