On our spring break trip to DC, I was challenged by the thought that the problem of homelessness seems so insurmountable at times, both at an individual level and at a national level. Gaining an understanding of social and institutional structures isn’t always easy – it feels a lot better to those of us with so much privilege (like myself) to call homelessness a problem of personal responsibility and be done with it. We know charity isn’t an effective long-term solution, but advocacy can seem so big-picture and overwhelming at times. These thoughts would cross my mind while we were in DC, but then we would visit with another incredible group of people who had found ways to impact both the lives of the individual people they served and the system they were working in, and that was so encouraging.
Again and again, I found joy in the interactions I observed and had with other people. From the gritty and awe-inspiring Rev. Linda Kaufman with Community Solutions, to Annette, a volunteer in the kitchen at N-Street Village who showed me pictures of her children, to Eric, a homeless man at Church of the Epiphany, who discussed Marxism with me at length, I found joy in the people I met. And then, being able to reconvene and unpack the day’s events with the ECM group over coffee or Vietnamese food brought another wonderful interactional element to the trip.
Whatever earthly thing it is, that makes people keep working toward solutions to these structural problems, – God must be involved in that. Because it must feel like such an incredible uphill battle at times, and I think it would be too overwhelming as individual people. It’s not just the administrators and volunteers and social workers at the non-profits we visited, but the homeless people also. Whatever it is that helps them carry on, despite the difficulty of their day to day lives, that must be God. Whether these things appeared to be spiritual or not, I saw on this trip that small, hope-giving triumphs in times of despair were acts of God.