Every year, our church gives each community group a certain amount of money and a simple urging to “bless your neighbors”. Our group threw lots of ideas around during our Tuesday night get-togethers, and when somebody mentioned the struggle of Nickelsville, a large Seattle homeless camp, in their mission for a land grant, I think several of us felt our heart strings being tugged. No, we didn’t have the funds to provide them with the property or the shelter they need, but we could certainly stretch our dollars and give of our time to provide them with a hot breakfast and a few hours of company. And so we were up at the crack of dawn this morning, elbow deep in pancake batter, to begin preparations for a breakfast to feed 75+ people. And at 8:30, we all rolled up to the South Seattle church which has allowed Nickelsville to temporarily set up camp in their adjacent empty lot. Our trunks were laden with 300 pancakes and slices of bacon, a couple hundred sausage links, bags of fresh fruit, and 2 large jugs of coffee. I will admit that I was anxious as I got out of the car, not knowing what to expect. Would they be receptive to outsiders such as ourselves? What could I possibly talk to them about? Shame on me for my fear and anxiety. These people are not so different from us. They are men and women that have lost jobs and been unable to pay mortgages, people that haven’t been able to find work or have faced illnesses or injuries that have knocked them off their feet, and they don’t want to be a burden to family members or friends. Particularly in economic times such as these, circumstances like these aren’t so hard to imagine. And the openness, gratefulness, and graciousness of this community far exceeded anything I could have expected. We showed up at Nickelsville this morning with the intention to bless these people that have faced struggles beyond what we can understand. But as is often the case, as I strove to bless them, I found blessings being lavished upon me in return. Each story, each smile, each “thank you” struck at my core, and reminded me of the importance of sharing God’s love and provision. As we were getting ready to leave, one man tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to pray for him. He has been seven months clean from a heroin addiction, but still struggles with temptation and “could use all the prayers he could get”. As I laid my hand on his arm and prayed that he would find God’s strength and protection, I was struck by the power of the human spirit as common ground. Yes, this man and I have had very different life experiences, but at our cores, we are both humans, we are both sinners in desperate need of God’s grace.
And so I am infinitely grateful for what took place this morning. I am thankful for our church, who cares deeply about the homeless community and continually encourages us to stop averting our eyes. I am thankful for our c-group, which is full of people that are constantly amazing me with their talents, their faith, and their generosity. These people really have become our Seattle family. And I am thankful for the warmth and the grace of the people of Nickelsville, as they opened my eyes to their “realness” and struggles. Please keep this amazing group of people in your prayers.