KOH2RVA: Day 30

Yesterday, after the 11:00 worship service, some 60 people gathered in the dining hall at church to watch a film about homelessness and mental illness.

I’m trying to imagine how many people would have gathered for such a film if we hadn’t been on a year-long, every-member mission trip, if we hadn’t been talking about how we can bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia. Would it have been four? Five? But yesterday they were about sixty who came (my estimate). I think they came because they want to bring the KOH2RVA and homelessness is one of our regular reminders that it isn’t here yet.

There are homeless people in our city. We see them standing at the intersections holding cardboard signs, asking for help. We often feel helpless to do anything. Yesterday’s film helped us in this way if no other: it helped us understand that some people are homeless not because they are shiftless and lazy, but because they are sick.

We heard the story of how thousands of mentally ill people were “de-institutionalized” back in the 80’s, partly because keeping people in mental institutions seemed inhumane, but mostly because it was expensive. And, so, people who were not really able to take care of themselves ended up on the streets.

Can you imagine what would happen if we decided to de-institutionalize all the people who were in hospitals? If we rolled them out of the buildings in their hospital beds and parked them on every street corner in town? Can you imagine someone lying there holding up a cardboard sign that said, “Cancer: Please Help,” or “Diabetes: Can you Spare Some Change?”

I think this is what the film did for us yesterday: it helped us understand homelessness better than we did before. It helped us see that some people are homeless simply because they are sick. It helped us feel some compassion.

I think about that place in the Gospels where Jesus looked at the people and had compassion on them, “because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” This is how I sometimes think of the homeless—as the lost sheep of the City of Richmond.

And I feel compassion for them.

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