It seems like there is always more bad news than good. It would be nice if we could string together a couple of good news weeks.
A body was found in the park the other day. The News story said he was an “unidentified man”. Unknown. The City Park employees found the young man near the tennis courts dead. No sign of struggle or foul play. Turns out we knew him. Several of our Street Family knew him as well. He didn’t come often but he came for awhile.
I remember his face but I don’t remember our conversations. I knew him by his looks but not his background, his likes, or dislikes. I am ashamed of myself for that. My memory is shallow when it comes to this young man. Why didn’t I take time to know more about him? I feel like I ignored him.
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)
Popular thinking seems to be that those in addiction chose to go down a path of sickness, poverty, abuse, and death because they are bad people. Because they made that choice they deserve to be outcast. They become harassed and helpless. They are lost disoriented sheep and they have no Shepherd.
Just to be clear, I am not that shepherd. You are not that shepherd. There is only one Shepherd and His Name is Jesus. This young man was a sheep lost in his addiction. I believe his Shepherd was with him even as he took his last breath. What was this young man’s last thought? As his last breath passed his lips did he whisper, “Jesus”?
I want to think he felt the Lord’s touch and closed his eyes only to open them to see the smiling Face of the Shepherd.
There are so many around us in our little town that are helpless, harassed and ignored. We attend our churches on Sunday and think we have paid our dues of faith at the alter. And then the other six days we step over the downtrodden along the street curbs.
Where is our God if not with those whose lives are in chaos and in shambles? Where is our Faith better shown? Kneeling at the alter on Sunday or kneeling on the street next to the hungry, the thirsty, the dirty, and neglected addict? What harm can come from learning a name and taking time to visit with them? To eat with them? To laugh with them? To cry with them? What harm?
I am ashamed I don’t remember even one conversation with this young man who died.
I pray for his family. I pray for his friends. He deserves to be remembered. I pray for myself. I have a responsibility to remember.