I have been thinking a lot about words lately. Have you ever noticed how we have a tendency to wear the words spoken to us, over us, about us? Some words we wear lightly, some with pride, and some are heavy and feel an awful lot like shame. Some words push us forward to accomplish unimaginable things, while others hold us back and leave us paralyzed.
Words really matter.
Which brings me to a word that I have recently been falling in love with; Worth.
The weight of that word lingers long after spoken, speak it out loud and feel it.
It is a word that communicates value, importance and deservedness but it almost seems to come with strings attached… at least one string, responsibility. If someone told me that I “matter”, I would think that yes of course, simply as a human life, I do matter. If someone told me that I was “worthy”, that is something entirely different. Being told you are worthy beckons you to more, almost as though it lifts your head up, straightens your back and helps you take the next step. I want to speak those kinds of words, words that others will wear proudly and that will push them on to be an even better version of themselves.
A while back I tagged along to observe, a local community fundraiser in support of the homeless. To be honest, there is so much that I don’t understand about the homeless community. I want to learn more, I want to help and support that community in productive ways, hence the tagging along and participating. I have so much to learn.
It strikes me that the majority of people would likely agree that the individuals who make up the homeless community MATTER. But I find myself wondering how many people when passing a homeless person on the street, are struck by that man or women’s WORTH?
What does the homeless community really need from us? I don’t know the answer, but my participation in this community event did open my eyes to some underlying issues. You see, I watched three kinds of people interact with our local homeless community.
There were those who believed that the homeless MATTER. This group came with enthusiasm, they came with ideas of what I imagine they thought they would appreciate if they were on the street. Their actions, like speaking the word “matter”, were fleeting to be honest. Lovely intentions that seemed to just miss the mark. Lovely actions that, I dare say, made them feel better than the people they were reaching out to. Watching this group I was struck by how they served the homeless in a way that made sense to them, but didn’t take time to understand or ask the community they intended to serve what would make them feel valued.
Another group I observed clearly believes in the WORTH of the homeless. They physically touched them, they knew their names, they met their needs in ways deeper than food and clothing, they invested in building relationships with them. Their actions, like the word “worth”, spoke of value but left a lingering string beckoning each person they interacted with to something more. This group clearly had taken time to know the community they were serving. In fact, they were not there to serve this community, they were a part of this community. A meaningful, productive, integrated, group of outsiders fully intertwined with the homeless community.
And then there was me, the third type, an observer at most. Wondering… wondering, if I can’t honestly speak life into a segment of our society that I don’t, and maybe can’t, even begin to understand; what should I do?
I still don’t know, but I think a great place to start is to ask. Ask the organizations in your community, and the world, who are positively integrated with the homeless. Engage the homeless person you meet on the street in effort to scrape beyond the surface to reveal what they really need. Just ask.
I have a four year old, and it always strikes me as odd when adults ask me what she would like. What she would like to drink? To eat? To wear? To do? I always redirect that question to her. The answer to what she would like may need to be a no, but it just seems to be the right place to start the conversation.
I am going to start asking. I am going to keep having the conversations, participating in fundraisers to support those organizations that understand how to and do, and continually push myself to interact with the homeless that cross my path in more meaningful ways. Not to make myself feel better but to encourage those people to believe in their inherent worth.
These words reflect what I hope my message to everyone I interact with, homeless or not, will be.
you are worth finding,
you + all your
one million layers.
always hold that close.*
Next time I come across someone in need, in need of food, shelter, love, grace, forgiveness, acceptance, refuge, or even just in need of encouragement, I hope to ask them what would help them most. Not force my solution to fit their pain, not become paralyzed because I don’t know how to best help them, I am just going to try asking them. Speaking worth into their hearts by showing I care enough to ask what they need.
The answer to their request may need to be no, but I think it will always be a good place to start the conversation.
Note: One Million Layers Worth Quote: Unfortunately I cannot find the name of the person who wrote those beautiful words (curse of the internet, uncredited works of art).