I stood in the doorway and paused to look at what seemed to be two completely different groups of people. Behind me inside the house was a growing crowd of 40 or more middle-class volunteers anxiously anticipating our street friends who would come in to eat a thanksgiving meal. Outside, standing on tired feet our familiar crew of chronically homeless stood patiently waiting for me to open the doors.
I’ve often heard these two groups commonly referred to as the “have’s” and the “have-nots,” but on this particular day as I opened those doors and watched the ensuing interactions I was reminded once again just how unclear that distinction really is.
“Who are the real hungry ones here?”
"The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.” ~ Mother Teresa
The overwhelming sense of hunger I experienced in the room that day came more from those inside waiting to help. I deeply resonate with that hunger – the hunger to serve others and play a useful role in caring for the disadvantaged. It’s this very hunger that led me to do what I do at Network.
Hunger is both righteous and restless and if not carefully examined becomes misplaced or displaced. When I examine this hunger in myself I find that far too often my sense of worth can get dangerously enmeshed with my usefulness. When the source of my identity gets wrapped around my usefulness my good works of charity become nothing more than another mask I wear to disguise the truth of who I am.
The mountain of unjust complexities that exist all around the world in every corner of society comes down to this basic question of worth. At the end of the day, our friendships, our time, and our money will all indicate just how we judge worth.
There’s a line in the wonderful Christmas carol, O Holy Night, which invites us to consider how we discern human value. It says that when Jesus appeared the soul felt it’s worth. The line implies that nothing we do or possess can mirror our true worth quite like sitting still with Jesus.
It’s my conviction that Immanuel is powerfully present now among those whose worth is most cast off and questioned. Among the most broken and barred Jesus continues to be both born and crucified.
As we give gifts and serve others this holiday season we’re being invited to do something radical – be still and examine it all! Yes, slow down in the presence of the Christ and see beyond our usefulness and beyond the illusion of haves and have-nots. Unto us a child is born and he revealed that all of us are worth it.