“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.'” (Matthew 9:36-38).
The simple truth: Loving like Jesus is about having compassion and being willing to listen.
I want to share a story. This is a story about Rikki.
I have been volunteering with the homeless services of Twin City Mission for awhile now, and through this I have learned how valuable it is to just be present with people. I spent a lot of time at the Community Closet, where people can come in and get clothes for free, once a month. All of the clothes we receive at the Closet are from donations, so they typically tend to be a little worn out.
On one Friday morning, a woman walked in and asked if we had any size 9 running shoes. She explained how she had been wearing shoes that were 2 sizes too small, and her feet were being badly beat up, but this was the only pair she had. She could not afford to buy a new pair, as she was looking for work while living at the shelter. Sadly, we didn’t have any shoes her size, and she walked away empty handed.
Since I am close to that size, I went home to check if I had any shoes that would fit her. But sadly, once again, I had nothing. For a few special cases, I have gone and bought people at the shelter basic necessities, like running shoes. But since I never got her name or information, I was unsure if I would ever see her again or be able to get in contact with her, so I figured buying shoes then wouldn’t have been the best idea.
So, I did all I knew how to do. I prayed to God that she would have shoes provided for her, or she would find a job that would allow her to afford her own. God is the only one who can make the impossible so possible. I prayed for Him to put her in my path again so I could help. I was willing to be used for His glory.
A month later, I was doing my final cleaning rounds before closing the Closet for the day, when a woman ran into the room. She joyfully began chatting with the woman who works at the front, and I heard, “Yes, God has been providing for me so much! I just got a job and I’m so excited! I seriously know that He is there for me and watching over me. Now all I need is a pair of shoes for work, since I stand the entire time. Did y’all ever get any size 9 running shoes?”
I realized this was the same woman as before! The honest chances that we would run into each other were very slim, and I felt the nudge of God saying “I’m using you now.”
I walked up and asked about her feet, and she told me all about how she’s still been wearing the same small shoes, and the skin on her feet was coming off, leaving her in constant pain.
I responded, “Would you like me to buy you a new pair of shoes that actually fit you?”
She just stared in disbelief. “No… I mean… I couldn’t ask you to do that.”
“No, really, I insist. It would be my joy to buy you some shoes! Do you have anything going on right now? We could head over to Academy together and try on some shoes!” I responded.
“Well, the lunch at the shelter is in 10 minutes…but I don’t have to eat!” She said excitedly.
“Well hey, have you ever been to The Village? It is just a block down and they have super yummy food! Let me buy you lunch, then we will go get your shoes!” I said, with a giant smile on my face.
We went to lunch and I just got to sit and listen to her story. I got to see how her family, lifestyle, and her past led her to be sitting here, with me, in Bryan, Texas. The craziest part about it for me was how different, but how incredibly similar her testimony was to mine. She was an extremely intelligent woman, graduated from University of Houston, but an unfortunate set of circumstances, paired with lack of community, got her into a lifestyle she never saw coming. I got to share the Gospel with her and talk about her relationship with Jesus. We ended up sitting there for almost 2 hours, just chatting it up like we had been friends forever (given, she was closer to my mom’s age than mine).
After lunch, she said to me, “Abby, you do not need to buy me shoes. I had so much fun just sitting and talking with you, and you already paid for my lunch. It’s really okay if you don’t want to get me the shoes anymore.”
I insisted, once again, that it was my pleasure to buy her shoes, and she really didn’t have to keep asking me if I wanted to.
We drove together to the store and walked swiftly to the shoe section. She was like a kid in a candy store, running through the aisles, looking at all the options. It felt like I was shopping with my mom, and we had such a blast just talking and laughing together.
Once she finally found the pair she liked, I told her to take a victory lap around the store to make sure they felt good. She walked up to me after, with tears in her eyes.
“I’m going to cry,” she spoke quietly to me.
“Oh gosh, don’t cry, you will make me cry!” I replied.
“Thank you so much. You made me feel human again. You made me feel like a normal human,” she said, tears rolling down her cheeks.
Here, in the middle of Academy, were two woman just looking at each other, crying. I’m sure it was quite the scene to those around us.
As we were checking out, she said to me, “I get my paycheck next week, then lunch is on me.”
“You got it girl.”
This story is so much more than shoes. It’s about how the world defines our worth by the things we have and the places we live. How crazy is it that just going out to eat and buying shoes, something that may seem so everyday to us, was something that made her feel HUMAN. She had allowed her circumstances to define her self-worth, and it broke my heart. But I wasn’t the one who was going to solve all her problems by buying her a pair of shoes. In fact, that only eradicated a small, small issue in the grand scheme of her life. I couldn’t change her life, but I showed her to a God who could.
Why I love Rikki is because she exemplified what we must do as believers who want others to know Christ. We must come in, meet them where they are at, and show them love and compassion. And if ever given the chance, we should meet their spiritual need before we meet their physical need. That means the first thing we should desire to do is see where someone is hurting in his or her relationship with the Lord, and speak truth over them. Then, be willing to go the next step and fulfill the physical needs they have. I got to have the pleasure of sitting and sharing the Gospel with her, then I got to joyfully buy her a pair of shoes.
Realize that, eventually, those shoes will get run out and torn up. As time goes on, she will eventually have to buy a new pair of shoes. But unlike the shoes, what will always be there for her, what will never get run out and need to be replaced, is Jesus. That is why sharing the Gospel, and sharing the truth of God’s Word, is so essential to making a lasting impact on someone else’s life. You will not always be there for them, but you’re introducing them to a God who will.
All too often the homeless are overlooked or looked down upon because of their circumstances or lifestyles. But Jesus came and ate with the sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes. What does that mean for us? We should NEVER be a people who believe we are better than others because of our financial or family situations. Let us instead, like Jesus did when he saw the crowds, have COMPASSION on them. Hear them out. Listen to their hearts and see how beautifully crafted they are by God. There are so many people like Rikki, homelessness aside, who have had no one take the time to just hear them out, to just listen to their story and their emotions. That is what Jesus did. He ate with them because it showed His desire to KNOW them. We were built for relationships. We desire to be loved and be known. So take that extra step, reach out, have compassion, and above all, LISTEN. If you don’t listen, you won’t be able to hear where they are hurting.