Over the past few weeks my eyes have been opened to something I do not ever want to un-see, homelessness in my hometown of Orlando. Now don’t get me wrong, growing up in downtown Orlando I have always been aware there were homeless people. And to be honest, they used to drive me insane. I hated being asked for money, when I myself struggled to make ends meet. But for the first time ever, I have realized that these people are not defined by their homelessness, they are people.
More importantly they are people with names and they are people who need to be loved.
This all became apparent to me the other day while at work. I ordered way too much food for a staff meeting, and while I was cleaning up I saw a man walk behind some bushes by the building. I just had this feeling that I needed to bring him dinner from the leftovers, but I wanted to make sure he would enjoy it.
I walked outside, asked him what type of sandwich he preferred, what type of soda he wanted and then I asked him his name. After I asked him his name, this grown man, had tears streaming down his face.
Now y’all should know, I am the epitome of awkward. If someone starts to cry I do not know how to respond. I feel the need to overcompensate and remedy the situation immediately. But instead of my typical behavior, I gave him a minute to collect himself, walked inside and made him a plate for dinner.
When I returned I gave him the food. His face was now full of joy, instead of the tears. He thanked me for the meal, but said the most special part, and the thing that he was most grateful for, was my desire to know his name.
And in that moment it hit me like a ton of bricks, how many people within my life are nameless? Not just people homeless on the streets, but within every aspect of my life.
It’s so easy to get consumed with our own problems, and our own to-do lists. I am constantly thinking and let’s be honest, overthinking, about way more than I wish to admit. I am usually in Emily’s own little world. I disregard people on the street, within the grocery store, even at work and church. Not because I am purposely acting malicious, but because it’s easy to sink into the thoughts and world within my own head.
This is not the way I want to live. I don’t want to be so self-consumed. I want people I see on a regular basis to have a name, and I want to know their story. I want my heart to ache for the burdens homeless people face each and every day. I want them to realize that I value them as a person. I value their history and I value their story. I want them to have a name.
It’s such a simple thing, it’s a name, but a name has power.
My new friend’s name is Mike. We see each other on a fairly regular basis now. His life has not drastically changed, but he is now a person, whom I love and pray for. I cannot do much to change his circumstances financially, but I am capable of acknowledging the fact that he is a person. A person who laughs and struggles, just like me.
So Lovelies, the next time you see someone who is homeless I challenge you to not brush them off. Recognize that they are a person, a person who has feelings and a rich history. Don’t just get lost in your phone unwilling to acknowledge them.
If you can (BUT please make sure you are safe while doing so) learn their name, it’s a simple thing, but also such a beautiful thing. If learning their name is not possible, at least smile at them, make eye contact with them and acknowledge their beautiful presence. You really never know how much your smile could brighten up their day and their world.