Living on purpose with William Holland
In today’s world, it’s common to see people standing on a street corner holding a sign declaring how desperate they are for financial assistance. In our small town, we also have some who walk up and down the streets at all hours of the day and night and, over the years, they have become familiar simply by being continually visible.
Along with others, I have spoken with them and assist them in whatever way possible. Most of them have a place to stay and receive social-security assistance but still need help in many different ways. They suffer from various health problems and dysfunctional family situations but, unfortunately, they are also exposed to harassment as passing motorists honk their horns and laugh at them.
One older gentleman in particular pushes a shopping cart around town and it’s usually filled with empty cans and various items he has found. His skin is weathered and wrinkled and occasionally someone will stop and talk with him and give him a sandwich.
In speaking with him, I discovered that he receives social security and has a modest place to live but he seems to enjoy walking around town and is free to do whatever he wants as long as he is not bothering anyone or causing a problem. We have a number of other colorful characters who do the same thing, reminding us that there are people who live a much different life than we do.
I’m sure there are reasons and circumstances that would explain such people’s individual situations but we are not to look down on or be cruel to those who have experienced a difficult and disappointing life.
Colossians chapter 3 describes the attributes that Jesus hopes we will realize and develop: “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, a heart of mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; showing patience and understanding, and forgiving one another”.
As a community chaplain and a member of state and local crisis-response teams in Kentucky, I am often involved with people seeking assistance, especially during the wintertime. Our local leaders graciously open the schools and other buildings for emergency warming shelters for the homeless and many restaurants are generous in constantly donating food.
Recently, a new emergency shelter has opened with a vision of serving three meals per day and providing 60 beds, along with washers and dryers where the homeless can maintain their clothes.
My sister Terri, who helps me each year with holiday food boxes for the needy, was taking a tour of this new facility recently with her eight-year-old son Victor, who listened as she was explaining to him about generosity and how important it is to help others.
Suddenly, he spoke up and said: “Mom, maybe the man who pushes that shopping cart around town can find this place”. The room fell quiet. He was trying to process this information and the innocence of a child had connected with having compassion for someone in need.
This story brings a tear to my eye as I think how important it is to teach our children not to take our blessings for granted and how Christ wants us to love and help others.
James chapter two talks about people who are wealthy and those who are poor and refers to respect and attitudes of pride and the way we treat people. The writer explains how easy it is to brag about possessing faith and having pity on those who are suffering while walking away without actually doing anything to bring relief to the situation.
Verse 15 reads: “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you tells them ‘Depart in peace and I hope you find food and shelter’ but does not take action to give them what they need – how is that helping?”
We can use the excuse that people have created their own problems but we have all made mistakes and, if not for the grace of God, where would any of us be?
“And be kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for the sake of Christ has forgiven you” – Ephesians 4:32.
Kentucky resident William Holland is an outreach minister, chaplain and author who has his own Christian website, billyhollandministries.com, and sets out each week to find thought-provoking messages of inspiration, hope and encouragement for our readers.