I recently had a brief counseling session with a street youth in front of my good friend, Mark. This friend has walked with me through discerning my call to ministry, starting the ministry, and watching it grow. But the events that enfolded one day during our regular coffee time allowed him to see how SYM works with homeless people on the street. And Mark graciously agreed to share his observations:
Terry and I get together for coffee on UT’s campus nearly every Thursday afternoon. It’s a bit of free therapy for both of us, I suspect.
On one recent Thursday, he and I were talking about some particular biblical passage. (Our conversations often weave in and out of the Bible, although we never have an agenda toward that end). Terry mentioned that some of his street kids were particularly knowledgeable about things biblical. Since I’ve witnessed the decline in biblical literacy among the general population, I thought it particularly ironic that street kids–many of whom never even finished high school–may be the biblically astute ones among us.
As were we discussing this, John–an older street kid of about 30–wandered through the student union, needing to use the restroom. We kept talking. On his way to Wendy’s, John walked right by us. Terry said, “Hello,” and John stopped to chat. He told us straight-forth that he was mulling over the significance of a particular piece of Scripture which he quoted to us. We continued talking. A student union representative–noticing that John seemed out of place not because of his age but because of his attire–sauntered up and wondered if John was bothering us. “No.” In fact, she was the one bothering our conversation.
John was bothered by the attempt to shoo him away. This led me to assuring him that he was worthy of attention and love. “John, you are a wonderful creation of God. You are beautiful and lovely.” John replied, “You know, I think I really needed to hear that just now. You start to doubt that living on the street and being treated the way we are.”
Like many of the kids Terry works with, John is navigating not just a personal world of emotional challenges but a social world that wants him to disappear. It’s ironic: nobody else would’ve guessed John’s biblical acumen, even though we were sipping coffee on a university campus. It brought to my mind how Paul asserts in Philippians 2 that we “…in humility consider others better than yourselves.” What a tall order for us. We don’t often do that with our families and peers, let alone street kids. Perhaps it’s time.