Mary and Jack called Love INC the other day (you can use any name you wish, but I’ll use Mary and Jack for my family — the names have been changed to protect their identity). They were really struggling this year. Prices have gone up on food and everyday needs while income has dropped. Jack was a construction worker you know, and in the wintertime, the job opportunities go down. Mary used to be a stay-at-home mom, but she was, until recently, working part time at a fast-food restaurant in Grand Junction. Little Johnny, now 2 years old, was not old enough for preschool, but with Dad’s lack of work, Jack was the stay-at-home parent.
The family was not making it. The rent which was reasonable before is now out of reach. The eviction notice was given and they had to leave their home. They came to Craig because they have heard that here they may find work. Living in the car was not safe but they persevered and had made some decent job contacts. They just needed time and a helping hand. Someone told them to call Love In the Name of Christ, and they did.
Love INC was able to house them in the Love INC emergency/transitional housing program (Homes of Hope). There they had a safe place to live, and while there, Love INC’s program provided the structure needed in order to find a good job and to start over. After two to three months, they are each working and have saved the money they need to start over.
Mary and Jack remind me of the homelessness another Mary and her husband and son faced long ago — more than 2,013 years ago. When Jesus came to this Earth, he came to save us all from the consequences of our sins and to call us to live a life of love. But Christians must be careful how they show love to the needy. Lois Tupyi, in her wonderful, insightfully-written book, "Redemptive Compassion: The Defining Difference," states that “An amazingly high percentage of people living in chronic need struggle with depression. Complacency, inactivity, helplessness and hopelessness are all contributing factors. When we do for people what they have the capacity to do for themselves, we add fire to their already smoldering low self-esteem.”
Tupyi goes on to explain that when we don’t allow people to deal with their mistakes, failures and poor choices, we can actually be interfering with them learning what it takes to move forward into a more successful life. Homes of Hope is an example of a hand up, not a handout, type of help — help given in love. A hand up does not take away the need that people have to deal with their own problems; rather, it is a love that comes along side to help them through the rough patches that are overwhelming.
Does this love take more time than handing out money? Of course it does. Does this type of love take more financial resources? Sometimes it may and sometimes it takes less, but it always takes more time and more volunteers. This coming year, Love INC plans to increase the love shown to our neighbors in need by offering an educational component to the aid that we provide through the churches. Is it worth the extra time and money? It is to the Marys and Jacks that have been helped, and I think it is to Jesus, as well.
During this Christmas season, think of the Mary and Joseph of long ago who dealt with homelessness, even if it was part of God’s plan. Think about the many people dealing with homelessness and eviction in our community today. Starting over can be tough. Mary and Jack had to do so, and with some additional love, they are doing so.