On April 1, CitySquare began outreach to homeless persons who live on the streets and sidewalks of the central business district here in Dallas. Downtown Dallas, Inc. contracted with us to do this work. The idea is to identify homeless people on the streets, get to know them personally, gain their trust and then work with them to find permanent housing here in Dallas or assist in reuniting them with their families here or elsewhere.
So far, this new dimension of our work Downtown is going well. We're getting to know people and we're doing our best to assist them in improving their day-to-day living circumstances.
The new assignment causes me to look at the streets and the people living on them differently. I find myself constantly looking for new friends in a way I haven't before.
Most of the men and women to whom we reach out experience chronic homelessness. . .they've been "out there" for a long time with few interruptions in status or circumstance.
One man I see on a regular basis reminds me of Lazarus, the man who "lived" outside the gates of the rich man's estate in the troubling story Jesus told. In the parable, the horrid life of the beggar connected directly to the after life of the man of wealth. The point of the story sobers me and moves me past my blind complacency.
But, back to my modern day Lazarus.
He often sits on the sidewalk outside the downtown YMCA where I workout most days. He's modified a walker to support himself and to secure his possessions as he moves about a very limited area. He is filthy, not having had access to a shower for a long time, or so it appears.
I've talked to him a few times. His speech is hard to discern. He speaks with a very low voice. His eyes disturb me, I think because of the hopelessness and illness that flows from them.
I've never observed him begging. It is as if he's given up on anyone helping him, or maybe it's that he's given up on the entire idea of there being any "help" for him from any source.
We'll reach out to him again with more intentionality and resources than I've brought to the process so far. Hopefully, there will be better news to share about him soon.
Or, maybe not.
I do know one thing for certain as I reflect on him and my experience with him: the two of us need each other. That is true at so deep a level that neither of us understands just how true and important it is.
Today I'll be looking for "Lazarus" again.
[You can read the entire tale of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19ff.]