The big man with flowing hair and long beard walked into the shelter with backpacks on both sides of his chest and a huge, beautiful walking stick. I greeted him as he moved to fill his plate with breakfast and he smiled with the bluest eyes ever. This was my first encounter with Dan, a homeless gentleman whose life included severe war injuries, PTSD, family dysfunction and anxiousness if he was crowded. He had several outdoor camps around town and usually carried everything he owned so it would not get stolen. This rough and perhaps scary looking man was one of the most generous and caring people I had met in a long time. He was always ready to lend a helping hand or tell stories that left us in amazement. When I first met him, I was looking at him through my human eyes. As I got to know him, I could see him through God’s eyes. A precious, gentle soul who lives life in ways that most of us are working so hard to avoid. Dan’s testimony of his relationship with God was inspiring. His belief was unpolluted and not shackled by worries, stress, programs, time, or guilt. His belief in God was pure.
We all come across situations which call for courage in action. When I was working in an elementary school, we decided to have a food drive contest for our local food bank. The top two classes with the most items would win ice cream for their snack. (Never underestimate the power of elementary children in their quest for ice cream!)
Each class began filling up their boxes and counting their items. One mother bought 12 jars of baby food so another student brought 13 jars of baby food so it would count more. Soon, the contest took on a life of its own and even adults began encouraging students to bring in smaller items because they would count more towards their goal of winning. About 3 hours before the contest was to end, an administrator got caught up in the contest and left campus to purchase more items for her child’s class so they would win. All of a sudden, a good and caring activity turned into a contest filled with greed, competition, manipulation. The goodness and initial caring of the food drive was lost in selfish ice cream.
Could I do it? Could I walk into the principal’s office and stand there and tell her I thought we needed to get back to the reason for the contest in the first place? Would I have the courage to express my sense of injustice and unfair practices in a contest which started with compassion and turned in to greed? You bet I could do it. Because God was allowing me to see this teachable moment through His gracious eyes and the knot in my stomach was pushing me forward right into her office.
After visiting about my concerns and the real meaning of the food drive, it was as simple as an announcement over the intercom to tell all the classes that everyone would be getting ice cream and no grand total would be necessary. The task of feeding the hungry was the real success.
How can we see a situation so ghastly like the earthquakes in Nepal through God’s eyes? It is a blessing we cannot see as thoroughly as God sees because we would not be able to humanly process the entire pain and destruction. This does not mean God wants us to ignore the situation or the feelings of kinship with the mother desperately hanging on to her children in the middle of the street while buildings crash all around them. Or the look on the face of the elderly man as he realizes that he has nothing left – no home, no food, no clothing, and no possessions. So how can we see this through God’s eyes? God wants us to see the world as one. One in humanity. One in caring. One with us. One in action. God desires our prayers and generosity in response to situation that was not in our own back yard, but which is still in our world.
Not every person in the world is easy to love. There was an old man that passed away. He lived a long life, but his life reflected greed, love of money, lack of compassion, selfishness and absence of emotion for his family. He was not an easy person to be around, and you often left his home feeling angry, insulted, frustrated, even saying the words, “I hope I never have to see this guy again.”
When he passed away, the family asked if I would do the funeral service. Whew! What do you say about a person who lived such a life? How do you comfort loved ones when they need little comfort? What scriptures can you choose when you know he could have cared less?
We all know people that make it very difficult to see them through God’s eyes. I was reminded of something we always used to say when I volunteered as an EMT with our rural ambulance. “Do no harm.”
As I prepared his service, I took great care to be positive and encouraging for those who attended his funeral. I read scriptures of hope and peace. I talked of a family who gave of themselves for his benefit. I smiled.
Standing at his gravesite, the warm breeze and sunshine were welcoming moments of peace. The words spoken were being led by God. Although in my experiences with this old man, I could not see the love God had for this person, my role was to do no harm. No disapproval. No harshness. No negativity. Only ministry.
Whether in the homeless shelter, in your community or across the world, God talks to us.
D & C 161: 1 “Community of Christ,” your name, given as a divine blessing, is your identity and calling. If you will discern and embrace its full meaning, you will not only discover your future, you will become a blessing to the whole creation. Do not be afraid to go where it beckons you to go.
D & C 163: 4 a. God, the Eternal Creator, weeps for the poor, displaced, mistreated, and diseased of the world because of their unnecessary suffering. Such conditions are not God’s will. Open your ears to hear the pleading of mothers and fathers in all nations who desperately seek a future of hope for their children. Do not turn away from them. For in their welfare resides your welfare.
D & C 162: 6a. From the earliest days you have been given a sacred principle that declares the inestimable worth of all persons. Do not forget.
It is not enough that we see through God’s eyes because what we see calls for action. There is ALWAYS something we can do.
- Arrange for a prayer group to lift up those living in world conditions which reflect suffering.
- Use only encouraging words to support the worth of all persons.
- Seek out volunteer activities that match the mission of Jesus.
- Stand up for justice and fairness.
- Reflect on the generosity you can share by making a donation to Abolish Poverty, End Suffering.
- If you see a need, make plans to meet it.
God sees us through His eyes every day and it is a look of love. As we attempt to see through God’s eyes, let us also be vulnerable to act upon what we see.