By: Kenneth Stepp
This is a story of a rescue mission I went on in February 2014. The subject was afraid and hungry. She was a homeless girl in Florida.
I’ve been here six days. I have seen or experienced things I wish I had not. Where is the sympathy? We are all just human, none more valuable than the other, yet most would allow others to starve so they can buy a gadget or a toy they don’t need. I am at a loss for words to describe what I am feeling right now. By American standards, this is normal today.
As far as why I am here: I’ve never been here before. It is quite lovely. It began just nine days ago. A homeless girl found me via social media. This happens sometimes because I do own a nonprofit and live a very public life. But this one was over 500 miles away from my home in metro Atlanta. I never ask why or how, I just figure it’s a God appointment; a chance to show unconditional love to someone who may have never experienced it.
She hadn’t eaten in three days and was scared to death. Her friend had been raped and killed while she was forced to watch. She broke loose and ran. This, along with many other happenings, would cause some intense nightmares that I have witnessed every night we have been together.
I have reached out to many about her. I have also told her story to many others. For the most part, they all did one of three things:
1. They will pray for her, nothing more
2. They only asked questions in judgmental terms
3. They told me I shouldn’t get involved
They are only programmed to see her situation, not her humanity. All I saw was a girl who will more than likely be dead if someone doesn’t help her immediately. Plus she hasn’t eaten in days. The $45.00 I sent won’t last long. How can a human be this way with another human? I keep asking myself this. No answers….
Let me be clear. I am awful. I have more issues and flaws than anyone I know. But this is a biggie to me. It boggles my small mind. We have gotten so good at justifying doing nothing, that if someone does do something, we call them crazy, or a fool. I was told I couldn’t afford to help her. I could not agree more. When I told her I was on my way, I had $180.00 in the bank and no more coming. I was insane for sure. But the two biggest things in her world, scared and hungry, I knew I could fix. I can protect her and feed her. I drive a suburban, so if it came down to it, we could sleep in it.
My lease was up in three weeks, so I packed everything I owned when I went. I had no idea how long it would take to stabilize her life. A cheap apartment downtown and a job, I guessed. Not sure how long that would take, but it had to be done.
I guess the answer to why Me is that no one else would. I’m a complete stranger, 520 miles away. Yet calling all the shelters, churches, and nonprofits in the area netted no help at all. This is sad on many levels, but typical. I would like to say I am used to this lack of genuinely caring, but I am not. I hope I never reach a place where it is normal for me.
I am processing all of this right now. It will be in my next book, of that I am certain. Until then, I have plenty to do.
Feb 15 2014 Day 7 Of Rescue
I am sitting at an outdoor cafe and just finished my salad. It feels good to put something healthy in my body again. I am usually a careful eater. These journeys require eating on the run, unfortunately. I love people watching. It is high season here, so plenty to watch. The homeless mingle in and out of the crowds quickly. They watch for people to throw food away, then run to the garbage can to retrieve it.
I hear that word a lot when I speak of the homeless. Did they simply make bad choices? Is this how they must pay for them? Does the system work because some people don’t eat the crust of their slice of pizza? I don’t have the answers, I fear I never will. I do know that the answer to, “Am I my brother’s keeper” is supposed to be, yes.
I am on a journey to love all unconditionally. It is quite a task, so judging anyone is out of bounds. I wish I could win that all the time. I am convinced it can be won. Not judging those who judge others has been the toughest. I guess that shows in my writing . . . Mr. Obvious here.
Answers . . .
I wish I had some. The only person I have any real influence over is me. My answer is to give all of me when possible. To see at least as much value in a stranger as I do me. And I do everything for me. Do I owe them less? I’ve been told I am in a unique position to help the way I do. Am I? I am still trying to figure out how.
I am the worst person I know. I have a selfish side that worries me at times. I find myself thinking way too much of me constantly. It’s an ugliness we all possess, unfortunately. But when we give unconditional love, it keeps it in check. I guess the real answer is just that, unconditional love.
In America, and I’m sure other countries, the word Love has been so humanized. Honestly, it means almost nothing now. We use it when talking about food we like, even gadgets and toys we will be tossing in less than a year. So we attach this word to other humans now. And yes, we toss them too. Sad but true. We only loved them at that moment it seems.
Love, I mean the real thing, isn’t bound by time and space anymore than God is. You see, God really is love. So the only Godly trait we are capable of attaining is to love another human unconditionally. You see, to look like God to others, it requires another human. If we want to entice someone else to your belief system, show them unconditional love. This means no judgment.
My favorite quote is by Mother Teresa, “You can’t love them if you judge them.” She knew this powerful truth. Why can’t we get that? It really is simple. Christians, are you listening? Jesus taught two main things about how to live. Love others like He loved us (unconditionally and gave all of himself), and never, never, never judge. I am a Bible College grad and spent decades in fundamentalist churches. I BELIEVE THEY LOST THEIR WAY FOR THE MOST PART. Did I say that too loudly?
I’ve been in nonprofit work for years. Most help comes from the unchurched. Why would this be? I believe it is because teaching to judge is easier than teaching to love unconditionally. Most, not all, churches in the fundamentalist movement look far more like the Pharisees than Jesus these days. I actually had a pastor try to defend this on an online forum. He wound up deleting all of his posts and going away. I’m not anti-church at all. I would just like to see churches get back on track. Many people have been hurt by churches, forever. And forever is a long time.
So, how do I end this chapter? I am supposed to be writing a book on love. I guess I will simply stop writing and hope I made you think a little.
Update: It’s been almost three years since writing this. She is a phlebotomist, wife, and mom now. I am still me. The eight nights I spent in a crack house with her were interesting and the experience of a lifetime. My capacity to love grew. The area in my heart where God resides is bigger these days. I would do it again in a heartbeat . . . .