Over the last few weeks we have been collecting blankets as part of the Winter Warmer Blanket Drive which is an initiative that was started by Violette Sohaili Kee-tui that we have partnered with. Violette has such a huge heart for helping the less privileged people in our community and her commitment to charitable work is exemplary. Last night I accompanied Violette and a group of volunteers to distribute blankets and food to homeless people on the streets of Bulawayo and I just wanted to share my experience.
I dressed as warm as I could and stepped out of the comforts of a warm house at 8:30pm into a very chilly winter night and made my way to meet the team of volunteers. We set off with hot meals and blankets to the parts of town where we could find people covering themselves with card board boxes and plastics to keep themselves warm.
Some of the people were very surprised when we approached them and after realizing that we weren’t a threat , felt so happy to receive their blanket and hot meal. They were so grateful and I can still see the look of relief and excitement in their eyes as they received their blanket and food. Some of the people we gave blankets to work at the market and are struggling to survive but are making an effort by selling vegetables. They sleep next to their vegetables and try to use the little that they earn to survive.
As the night went on and it got later, it started getting colder. Maybe we were just outside for a lot longer. Either way, the people that we saw experience this cold every night and when we went home at around 11pm, they were still out there in the cold the whole night having to deal with the constant cold until the sun came up the next morning.
The one guy wasn’t a typical homeless guy. He lost his job in 2014 and couldn’t provide for his family so his wife left him and he had nowhere to go so he sleeps on the streets but is trying to look for work every day. I can just imagine how useless he feels as a man to be unable to provide for his family and to think what his life has amounted to. It broke my heart.
We drove from 4th avenue through the back ends of town by Fort Street near Godini and went towards the Railway Station and up and down streets looking for anyone we could find that needed help. As we saw someone, we would stop and go and give them a blanket and food and talk to them and encourage them in whatever way we could.
When I got home after 11 o’clock, I switched on the kettle to make myself a cup of tea and started thinking about my experience and I began to think of how privileged I am and how I had taken so many things for granted. Like the hot cup of tea that I was currently making and the hot shower I was going to have and the warm bed I was going to sleep in and the roof over my head. I thought about how some people are struggling to provide for their families and the little children that are struggling to cope outside in the freezing weather. I couldn’t imagine my children having to be outside in the freezing cold feeling hungry and hopeless. This is happening every day. I thought about the willing hearts of those who donated blankets to the cause and wish that they continue to be filled with compassion to help people who do not have. The world needs more people who have compassion for the poor. I thought about all the people we didn’t find that were feeling cold and hungry that went a night outside without any glimmer of hope. I began to think about some of my problems and how small they seemed compared to some people who literally have nothing and are living in such dire conditions.
This morning I arrived at work with a different attitude. I also remembered the story Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew 25. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
When Jesus walked on the earth He was concerned about people and touched them with the life of God everywhere He went. We have been commissioned to do the same. Social concern for the hungry, the homeless, poor, diseased and imprisoned must become integrated into the fibers of our being. He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given. Jesus equates our treatment to those who are destitute and distressed with our treatment of Himself. What we do for them, we do for Him.