I sat at the table with three guys at the drop in this week, just starting a hot game of euchre, when Rod asked if he could please ask a question. Everybody looked. “Sure,” I said.
Rod looked at me intently. We were in relationship for a while now, long enough for him to feel comfortable: “Why don’t you pray here at the drop in before meals?”
“Good question,” I replied and went on to explain that whereas we were a Christian agency, that we did pray before each drop in, that many times our volunteers prayed with people throughout the day, and that the servers prayed over the meal before serving, that we did not pray publically before meals because there would be a small percentage of our guests for whom that would be a problem. Some of our folks have been abused by ‘religious’ people, whether at residential schools, or their home towns or somewhere along the story path of their lives. Any kind of prayer for some of our guests, would make them feel very uncomfortable. For the sake of the few, we decided to forgo this common practice.
We continued to talk and enjoyed a good conversation about prayer, people and respect. The whole table became involved in fact, and the other guys felt free sharing their opinions as well (it was the first time for one of the guys to open up and talk in front of me).
The boys had been having some conversations about how other agencies require them to ‘be a part’ of a worship experience for about 40 minutes, then listen to a sermon for another 30 minutes, and then they were allowed to eat. They felt pretty strongly that there was something wrong with this system, and some definite lack of respect for people who were hungry and wanting something to eat.
I defended the particular agency to the guys, because we all know that there is just too much to be done in this world to help others, and people are doing what they think is best when they run a program.
There was talk then about how the worship/preaching/eating group never asked them what they wanted. You couldn’t play cards, and there was no time to visit or talk really, because the music was too loud during ‘worship’, or you couldn’t speak during the sermon time. The food was really good and always fresh, and when you’re hungry, that means a lot. The whole table agreed that the food was great.
I started to be at a loss for words right about then, but really came up with a big zero when Rod leaned across the table, and thoughtfully (and sincerely) asked me, “Do you think they are doing this for us or for them?”
Are we doing this for us or for them?
Million dollar question! A question that deserves serious consideration, or meditation, or maybe even some prayer time. Who are we doing this for? Is it to make us feel better, less guilty, more ‘loving’?
Or is it because ‘the love of God compels us’ to reach out to others?
Wisdom from the streets calls us to examine ourselves, our motives and our hearts.
Now everything has shifted: it’s not about the worship/preaching/eating group – it’s about me.