On Christmas Day, my family cooked our now-traditional Christmas meal of breakfast burritos. Three dozen eggs, a couple pounds of sausage, two packages of frozen hash browns, a large onion, and red and green bell peppers, two each.
Big family? No, just our ingredients for the couple dozen breakfast burritos we make and distribute to the homeless and the hungry. This is now the third year my sister-in-law joined forces with us to serve the community in this small way. (And this year we had a special treat with my mom also joining us)
This year was different however. Some bad planning on my part plus the usual busyness of the day itself pushed our usual breakfast to dinner time. This complicated things because it made it harder to find folks out on the street as the sun was quickly setting. Plus it was expected to be a cold night, so those that could had probably already found shelter.
But while the lack of quantity may have hidden the real need, those we did meet drove home just how difficult and dire are the circumstances many find themselves in. It is one thing to hand someone breakfast and hot coffee in the morning with the sun shining. It is something else completely to whisper to someone laying on cold hard concrete, covered by practically all of their possessions, that they didn't have to worry about breakfast in the morning.
During the day, our handouts are met with gratitude and conversation. But once the sun was down, we were met with skepticism and confusion. And the looks in the eyes of these tired, cold and hungry men and women tore at my heart.
It was only a burrito.
It was only one day.
James writes, "Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?' (James 2:15-16)
Jesus taught, "If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you..." (Luke 6:29b-30)
I wanted to do more. I wanted to give more. I thought about giving my coat, but they had coats. They had blankets. I was desperate to do something but I didn't know what. Then, as I was handing a burrito to one woman, her eyes told me she didn't understand what I was doing or why. And the only words that popped into my head to say were, "keep warm and well fed." What kind of statement is that? But the fact that a scripture entered my mind told me something else- God loves them. And looking into those eyes something hit me.
Yes, they needed food. Yes, they need shelter. But what they need most of all is to be recognized as human. To be loved. To be remembered. God loves them. Now I do too.