If we did a word association test on Arlington County, ‘poverty’ and ‘need’ probably wouldn’t rank very high. Consistently ranked by Forbes magazine (alongside neighboring Fairfax, Loudon and Montgomery Counties) as among the nation’s most affluent places, it’s possible to live in Arlington and forget that there are still a large number of needy residents here.
Cardboard sign-bearing men at intersections and panhandlers at metro stations remind us that we still live in a broken place with hurting people. How would Jesus have us respond to the destitute and needy?
St. Matthew writes in chapter 25 verses 37-40 of what we are to do:
37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
This stands in stark contrast to common responses to the homeless: ignore the panhandlers (walling ourselves off from others in our community), give out spare change (potentially exacerbating the substance abuse that plagues homeless populations) or politely decline to give out money on the street and pray for them instead (leaving a physical need unmet). A potential fourth option is to carry a homeless care pack that can be distributed to those in need, filled with items that advocates for the homeless list as beneficial.
This Sunday (March 25) members of our Restoration family are invited to bring donated goods (from the list below). Small group volunteers will collect and sort the items into individual care packs, which will then be made available for the congregation to distribute starting April 1.
I don’t claim that these care packs are the solution to long-term homelessness in Arlington, but they do enable us to connect with our neighbors in need. In addition to the donated goods, we will provide a list of resources for Arlington homeless persons, as well as scripture.
Prayer For the Poor and the Neglected (BCP pg. 826)
Almighty and most merciful God, we remember before you all poor and neglected persons whom it would be easy for us to forget: the homeless and the destitute, the old and the sick, and all who have none to care for them. Help us to heal those who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow into joy. Grant this, Father, for the love of your Son, who for our sake became poor, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Please consider bringing any of the following items to the church on March 25:
- Wet wipes (preferably individual anti-bacterial wipes)
- Nutrition bars (soft, chewy cereal bars rather than hard granola bars)
- Fruit or pudding cups
- White socks
- Toothbrush / toothpaste
- Chap stick
- Small New Testament
- Bottle of water
- Soap / shampoo / conditioner / deodorant
- Razor / shaving cream
- Comb / brush
Questions? Contact Jeff Walton at jwalton[at]spu[dot]edu.
– Jeff Walton