Scripture:  Yet we who have this spiritual treasure are like common clay pots, in order to show that the supreme power belongs to God, not to us.  We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed.”

(II Corinthians 4:7-9)

MeditationIn the mid-eighties I volunteered as a receptionist at the St. Vincent de Paul medical clinic for the homeless in Phoenix.  It was my first real introduction to those who lived on the streets.  At that time it was mostly single men sleeping in the streets or in shelters.  Then, as now, about 25% were mentally ill and about 50% were substance abusers (although this number is often disputed to be both higher and lower than 50%).  At the present time in some cities, over half the homeless population is made up of family members, including children; and approximately 10% are now single women, almost all of whom have suffered from some sort of violence or abuse.  Thus, the demographics have changed since the mid-eighties. 

But in my work as receptionist these categories of “mentally ill,” “substance abusers,” etc. did not occur to me nearly so much as other questions in my mind: “How can any of these people have any hope about the future?  How do they keep going?” 

Then one day I was not prepared for the simple sight that touched me so deeply – a man came in wearing a coat for the cool weather, and in one very large pocket he carried a puppy!  Now what else does a puppy bring to mind but joy?  And how could I believe that this man had no hope?  I had to think that he was betting on life, as opposed to despair, for his puppy and himself. 

That day several of my misconceptions about homeless people were shattered.  I learned that they aren’t all hopeless just because they’re homeless.  And I learned that they are a little like me – they love puppies!  I can imagine that Tabernacle’s have shattered many misconceptions of church members regarding homeless persons, and vice versa.

Jesus always bids us to choose life over death and hope over despair.  Sometimes, even with all the blessings of my life, I lean away from hope towards despair.  In those times I need to recall the man with the puppy in his pocket.

Prayer:  Forgive us, Lord, when we think of the world’s problems, or our own personal ones, and leave You out of the equation.  Help us to build hope from the wise truth that “God is all we have and God is all we need.”  Amen.

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