Smile and say hello.

Today, there was a homeless man asking for change on the sidewalk. (Actually, there were several because this is NYC, but I’m just focusing on this guy for the purposes of this post.)

He asked me politely if I had any change when I walked by, and I said, “I can’t give you anything. I’m sorry.”

Then, we small-talked about some things like the weather and how his day was going.  

He told me to have a great day, and then he said, “I understand that you can’t give me any change, but thank you for smiling and stopping to say hi.  That’s more than anyone else has done today, and it means a lot more to me than change!”

The conversation that we had wasn’t that significant and lasted about two minutes, but this isn’t the first time that a homeless person has thanked me for just smiling at him/her and saying, “Hi, how are you?” I always thought that was strange, because most people in New York scowl at you when you smile at them, and because I smile and say hi to lots of people and never think twice about it. (Clearly, I am not a lifelong Manhattanite.) I definitely don’t expect someone to thank me for smiling.  That seems a little extreme, because it takes almost no effort.

Anyway, this made me think, because I want to help people who are homeless but giving them money isn’t always beneficial and giving them food stresses me out.  Once, I gave my sandwich to a homeless man at the train station.  This is not something I usually do, but it was Thanksgiving Day, and he just seemed like he needed a sandwich. He was grateful, but I proceeded to stress about it the entire train ride. What if he has allergies that he doesn’t know about because he can’t afford a doctor, and then he has nowhere to go to get medical attention if he has an allergic reaction? I will have literally killed someone with kindness. These are the kind of things that keep me awake at night.

Seriously, though. I can give them information for different organizations that can help them, but a lot of times, there are hoops to jump through, such as a small fee or a qualification process. Or, especially in Manhattan, they’re just too full.  And churches, well, in my experience, not all but sadly too many churches will turn homeless people away for disrupting their services or for just being “too lost for the church to help.” (This is a phrase I heard at one church in college, but that’s a whole different rant for another day.)  I’m also just kind of afraid to talk to people I don’t know, because I’m shy. So I end up walking by like everyone else.

If I’m honest with myself, though, all of the previously stated ideas are just excuses to cover up the larger issue that I feel inadequate, unprepared and unequipped to do anything to help homelessness.  

Is donating spare change, giving away a sandwich, providing information or just stopping to talk to one person really going to do that much? And the answer is no, probably not, when you think about it from a macro-perspective.

But the guy on the sidewalk today reminded me of something I can easily do and a simple concept that I originally read about in THIS book: “Sometimes it’s easy to walk by because we know we can’t change someone’s whole life in a single afternoon. But what we fail to realize is that simple kindness can go a long way toward encouraging someone who is stuck in a desolate place.” –Mike Yankoski, Under the Overpass.

It’s true. It makes me feel really good when someone smiles at me and says something kind (Unless they’re being a creep, which also happens a lot in New York.) Especially when I’m having a rough day.

And I mean, a baby born to a carpenter and his wife in a tiny, impoverished town in the middle of nowhere eventually changed the whole world, so maybe we should start small, too.



I am restless.

I am restless.(I wrote this three years ago when I was studying abroad in Florence, Italy, but I wanted to share it anyway)
One of my friends posted a status on Twitter a while ago that said:
I’m constantly in awe of God’s love for me. It just never stops no matter what.
I favorited that tweet because I’m studying abroad here in Italy, which is a huge blessing and dream come true, and God has been doing some incredible things while I’ve been here.  I’m completely in awe of God every second of every day.  His love, who He is and everything that He does never cease to amaze me.
It’s so true. It doesn’t. God loves us unconditionally, and it’s absolutely beautiful. It’s something I’ve been coming to terms with more and more since I’ve been here. I’ve caught breathtaking glimpses of who God is and just how much He loves us through so many different things. I’ve seen God in the scenery, the people, the way He provides and answers every prayer in a unique and creative way and even in those simple, quiet moments spent with Him. I feel closer to Him than ever because I feel like I am surrounded by God here, and it’s overwhelming in such a good way. I feel like every inch of my heart is saturated and filled with God’s love every day.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot and wondering why exactly God has felt so much closer here. I know He never leaves my side, and He never will. But when I’m at home sometimes, honestly, He can feel a million miles away. In reality, it’s me who is far from Him, but that can be so hard to understand. I think when we’re in a situation where everything is new and unexpected, like traveling all over Europe for the first time, we’re forced to trust God more. And that can be a good thing because we encounter Him in new ways through trusting Him deeper and walking closer with Him. Praying for your adventures too, of course, is always a good thing!
On the long plane ride to Italy, I kept listening to the song Restless by Switchfoot over and over. It kept popping up on my Ipod, and I decided I want the theme of that song to be the theme of this semester. I like the idea behind that song. Because as awesome as it is to grow closer to God through experiences that force you to trust Him, I don’t want to walk closely with God and trust Him deeply only when I feel I have to; whether it’s because I’m out of my comfort zone, or I feel I have nothing else to cling to. 
He didn’t send Jesus after thinking, “Well, if I can’t find anyone else to love, I guess I’ll give these humans a chance.”
He loves us. Only us.
He could have anything besides us. He doesn’t even need us. I mean, He’s God. He has a perfect, beautiful relationship within Himself. All we do is mess everything up all the time. But we mean so much to Him that He still desires us.
And I want Him to mean just as much to me.
I don’t want to want God because I need Him. Of course I need Him. That’s more obvious than I like to admit. I want to want God because I love Him. 
I want to love Him the way He loves me every single day: unconditionally and selflessly and completely. If He can fall in love with a messed up, flawed and imperfect human like me, I can for sure fall in love with a perfect, majestic and beautiful God like Him. Even when I feel like I’m comfortable, loved and provided for, I want to pursue Him the same.  I never want to get comfortable enough in my relationship with Him that I feel like I don’t have to make an effort to seek Him constantly.
 I don’t want to ever feel like I have enough of God.  I always want to long for more and more and more.
When I was first getting to know God in high school, I was seeking Him so earnestly and even desperately, because that’s when I finally, for the first time, recognized this deep longing and need for Him in my life.  I finally realized nothing else was as important. It was powerful and gentle at the same time, and I vividly remember it bringing me straight down to my knees in tearful prayer one New Year’s Eve. And then over and over after that.
I’ve never experienced anything that moved me that way, and I want my entire walk with God to be as honest and passionate as the first time I let Him in.
I always want to be restlessly pursuing Him the way He restlessly pursues each of us.
And I want my love for Him to never stop no matter what.
 “I run like the ocean to find Your shore
I’m looking for You
Until the sea of glass we meet
At last completed and complete
Where tired and tears and pain subside
Laughter drinks them dry
I’ll be waiting
All that I aim for
What I was made for
With every heartbeat
All of my blood bleeds
Running inside me
Looking for You
I am restless.”
-Switchfoot, Restless