Tonight, our ‘Urban Intervention Training’ for new volunteers will cover the topic of ‘the Story.’ It is far and away the most enlightening session of the course, helping volunteers understand the value of hearing our street friends’ stories, however painful they may be. This is because most do not have opportunities to tell their story. Few have a trusted circle of friends, family or acquaintances with whom to share. Fewer still have the luxury of a captive audience.
I discovered this very early on in my work at OIM. Then – as now – it was not uncommon for one of our street friends to end a conversation with “thank you for talking to me” or “thank you for speaking to me.” It struck me as an odd, yet revealing thing to say. Our street friends encounter so many social barriers and have so few, if any, people to trust that when they encounter someone willing to listen, they are appreciative – very appreciative. Indeed, so devoid of caring and compassionate relationships are many of our street friends that they often tell their stories to us over and over again. Whether we are on the streets, at our drop-in, in our office or at the youth arts program, we find ourselves captive to their stories!
But isn’t that the way it should be? Shouldn’t we be captive to one another’s stories, carrying one another’s burdens, just as Christ carries ours? He is captive to all our stories, because He truly cares. “When you call to me, when you go to pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, you will find me with you.” (Jeremiah 29: 12-13).
It is a rare privilege to be able to be Christ’s hands and feet – and ears – on the streets of our city. It is in these unique encounters that we carry Christ with us and bring our street friends a little closer to Him.