Sunday, December 10, 2006

A new look at the homeless

A Palestinian Christian man came to our church service on Wednesday night in Georgetown. His name is Yusuf (Joseph in English) and he's from Bethlehem. He has been in the US for six months, has illegally stayed beyond his 3-month tourist visa. He is here trying to find work to support his family back home in Bethlehem, where he says the economic conditions are intolerable. I took him to lunch today and he proceeded to tell me more about his situation, only after a lot of prying on my part. He was more interested in hearing my thoughts on my experience in the West Bank, the Palestinian people and life, and politics there. Finally, I learned that he had not been able to find a job since he moved to Washington from Florida and had been sleeping on street corners. I gasped. "In the cold? Why can't you go to a shelter?" Yusuf said that shelters in DC document everyone who stays there and he is afraid of being sent back to the West Bank. I couldn't imagine that life there was worse than sleeping on the streets in Washington in the winter. At least he would have a roof over his head. But he said that his family was counting on him making some money and sending it home to them since none of them had been able to find work in Bethlehem for a long time.

He said the hardest part about his situation is that he was beginning to get dizzy spells and had even started talking to himself. "I feel invisble. No one talks to me; no one even looks at me." He said how difficult it was to be alone, especially since his culture is so social and it's very rare to spend any time alone.

I'm wrestling with what to do. This is the first homeless person I've ever gotten to know. I couldn't sleep at all last night thinking of him out there in the cold sleeping on a street corner. I've got to do something.

I was tellling a friend of his predicament last night and she mentioned that his same situation seems to be the same belief about Palestinians everywhere--homeless (stateless), poor, oppressed, wandering. I realized how true that was and immediately directed my prayers to see this man and this people that are God's children, just as we all are, the way God was seeing them--in the kingdom of heaven, never homeless or poor or oppressed. I have a ways to go to see it from this perspective but I'm working on it.

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