Homeless and Us – Survivors Together


Buck (not his real name) and I are engaged in a conversation. It’s about the government. It’s getting heated, not because we disagree but because the subject gets him riled up.

I’m getting uncomfortable. Maybe I should change the subject to something less volatile.

But then Buck says something that shakes me.

If the world as we know it ever comes to a halt, whether it be by our own government (Buck’s presumption) or by outside forces, he says he knows who the survivors will be: his kind.

His people—the homeless—know how to survive.

I believe him. They prove it in my city every day.

They are survivors. How else could they live day after day with the substandard food they eat, the poor sanitation they have, the diabetes and cancer and alcoholism and drug addictions and mental illnesses that many endure?

Some do die, of course. And eventually all die. As do we.

But many of the homeless live long. They’re survivors.

Sometimes I’m not sure whose world is the real one: theirs or ours.

My world feels comfortably real on my air-conditioned drive on the Parkway overpass, singing worship tunes bluetoothed in from my iPhone, bottled water in my cup holder, a full wallet by my side.

But underneath that same overpass is their world, a different world. It houses tents, a fire for cooking, and people with few possessions.

Their world feels brutally real as I stand among them that Saturday morning outside their garbage bags of belongings and chat with Buck as the loud train roars nearby.

But we return to our church van and drive back to our church building. This is the world I know best. We close ranks, hold hands, and Norm words a prayer from all of us, for all of them—the survivors.

We thank God for the lessons those survivors teach us. If they can keep on going, so can we.

I want Buck and his friends—many are now my friends, too—on my side if the worlds we both know ever come to an end.

Because eventually, all our worlds get shaken up. 

So for now, I’ll keep stepping into Buck’s world and pray it makes mine a little less plastic and a lot more authentic. That it makes his a little less lonely and a lot more loved.

Our previous separate worlds will improve and merge at the intersection. It becomes less about our differences and more about our similarities.

The same God put both Buck and me in this same world.

And we are survivors together.

* * *

Please share in the comments.

revised from the archives

47 thoughts on “Homeless and Us – Survivors Together

  1. Patricia Krank

    I believe Buck’s prediction to be true. The homeless, broken, mentally ill, etc., truly are survivors and will know how to go on surviving if we ever find ourselves in some terrible upheaval. I’ve had family members that have come to close to being one of these people. Thank God for providing resources to help those who might have ended up in that situation. Not everyone is so lucky/blessed. Whenever I see a homeless person all I can see is someone’s little boy or girl and it breaks my heart. Thank you for going out to minister to those who are so often forgotten or despised.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      If we could do this more often, how compassionate we would be!–>> “Whenever I see a homeless person all I can see is someone’s little boy or girl and it breaks my heart.” Thanks for sharing that, Patti. Every person alive was once a little toddler learning to walk and talk and explore. If we can remember that, our perspectives would surely soften.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I know you’ve seen this in your travels as you’ve ministered to so many diverse kinds of people. Isn’t it amazing that the further out we go, the closer we all are? God is definitely the common denominator in all of us! Thanks for visiting, Susan.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      He definitely has a wisdom that comes from years of experiences that I’ll never have (hopefully!). There are certain people in our lives that are truly one of a kind and he is one of those for me! I haven’t seen him around much lately; I know his health has been getting worse the past year. His homeless community will be a bit poorer when he is gone because he does care for others so much.

  2. Debbie

    I continually pray for the homeless, especially the ones with mental illness. I have panic disorder and thank God every day for my blessings. I can’t imagine walking around and dealing with it without a home. God bless you for reaching out to help them. I can’t physically do it, but I give to homeless charities. I really have a soft spot in my hear for the homeless. 🙁

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You are precious, Debbie. I often consider how their lives could have been so different if they had grown up with stable parents and many of the advantages that I have known. 🙁 But many of them lacked good things in their lives, or else lacked support once they made their own mistakes. There but by the grace of God go I! I appreciate your heart to pray for them and give to homeless charities. That is very valuable work in the Kingdom!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, their ingenuity never ceases to amaze me. It would take me a LONG time to learn how to make it in this world if I were stripped of all my material goods. 🙁

  3. KellyRBaker

    Buck makes a good point. I’m glad you are sharing about this, Lisa. I have been “interacting” with a homeless woman for about a month. A few days ago I gave her a little NT and restated the invitation for her to come to our church (which is on the same block she frequents). I shared with a saved woman from church about the homeless woman and asked her to join me in prayer that she would come. The saved woman’s response startled me. Let’s just say it lacked compassion. I’m praying the Church will walk in the same compassion Jesus did.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Good for you, Kelly! Whether or not the woman ever makes it to your church, you’ve shown her such respect and dignity just by your asking. These “little” gestures can have such ripple effects, not just on the person we’re interacting with, and on ourselves, but also on others down the line, like your friend from church. I’m guessing she might have thought twice later about her response….

  4. Liz

    I love this! I’d like to share it with my Move Toward the Mess Book club members, if that’s OK. Finding common ground…looking for our similarities is the key to connecting! You’ve hit the nail on the head. Many blessings upon you and your church as you continue to minister to and learn from these survivors!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, feel free to share this, Liz. We have been so blessed in our church community to have two very strong advocates for the poor and homeless in our area. Without their paving the road for the rest of us, I would have missed out on some tremendous blessings in my own life from meeting some unique and lovely friends.

  5. Robin Revis Pyke

    Thank you for sharing this journey with your ministry. Your willingness to listen and share with Buck is a blessing! It’s amazing when God places individuals in front of us to serve as well as for our learning. I hope to hear more of your journey!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Robin. I usually come away from these encounters feeling like I’ve been given far more than I gave out. That’s just the way God works things for us, yes?

  6. Laura Thomas

    I’ve never considered this before, but yeah, Buck is right— he is in the group of survivors. We (I) forget how strong and resilient the homeless actually are… perhaps they are the ones living real lives, focussing on the next meal and relationships with others on their block— while we get caught up in the mindless clutter of schedules and Internet and material fru-fru! Thanks for giving me some food for thought, as always, Lisa… 🙂 Stopping by from #SaltandLight

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, it is amazing how different our worlds are, and how being around the homeless can really put our own problems into a different light! Their resiliency and mine don’t even compare. 🙁

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I don’t do much, Sarah. I’m trying to learn more to just show up for the opportunities God puts in front of me, and he’s given me some unique opportunities the past few years. My eyes can be so blind–and my fears so strong–that I’m sure I still miss out on many things he’s inviting me into. Praying for clearer vision and more faith!

  7. Barbara H.

    What a startling thought, but so true, that those who know how to survive without all our conveniences and creature comforts will probably be the ones best able to handle a calamity. I especially love this: “So for now, I’ll keep stepping into Buck’s world and pray it makes mine a little less plastic and a lot more authentic. That it makes his a little less lonely and a lot more loved.”

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      We are definitely spoiled by our modern conveniences. Which is fine, I suppose, as long as we don’t take them for granted or begin to feel entitled to them. I sure wouldn’t want to have to live without an indoor toilet or microwave oven or a DVR and a thousand other things that I depend on for my own “survival.” ha.

  8. Pam

    I so admire and respect the evidence of the way you are involved in outreach and what those times do to adjust your perspective. What you share from that blesses each of us, your readers.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      One on one, I’m sure you would relate wonderfully, Sue. You’d likely discover you more in common than you could have imagined. It’s been an eye-opening few years for me as I’ve discovered that.

  9. Amy @ The Quiet Homemaker

    Wow, what a beautiful story! And honestly he is probably right. There are some who take the time to know the things that are important if the end came, but most of us live in a world so far from his. So far from real. The new generations are even worse, they can not function without technology, have no clue how to start a fire, or where their food comes from. It is honestly scary to think about.
    Thank you for this post!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, I wonder how we would survive without all our technologies now. 🙁 It’s crazy how dependent we are on them. When our electricity was out for a week after the tornadoes of 2011, we got to see how simple (and complex!) life was without our creature comforts. Thanks for commenting here, Amy.

  10. April

    It can happen to anyone. I have been a single mom for 9 1/2 years and had I not had my family, me and my kids would have at least been in a shelter. I fought so hard trying to get child support and I have sat with so many women who had nobody. I am in Georgia and it is awful the way single moms get treated here. The non-paying parent is almost taught how to avoid payment by the system. Women who are homeless and have children are definitely survivors and very strong women. It’s not easy to leave, but if a situation is bad enough you will. There’s no doubt my kids would not be the adults they are today if I hadn’t divorced.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m glad you’ve survived your hard situation, April. Yes, there by but the grace of God any of us could be homeless. I often think that some of my homeless friends wouldn’t be in their situation if they had had supportive family/friends as they were growing up. There are many, many difficult circumstances out there and we all need to have more compassion towards each other and lend helping hands every which way we can. I appreciate you sharing this part of your journey here! Your story matters.

  11. Ruth

    My dad has spoken many times of how less and less capable people in our country are to survive a catastrophe because most people don’t learn the survival skills necessary. Buck has a good point there.
    It’s so good that you have been able to reach out to him and the others and that they, in turn, have taught you valuable lessons, as well.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I would probably be among the first to die in a real catastrophe because I lack basic survival skills myself. ha. So I agree with your dad. We’re getting more removed from practical skills as we move into “head” skills—which are also good, but not at the expense of common sense. Thanks for sharing these thoughts, Ruth!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You’re welcome, Kristin. I appreciate your faithfulness in hosting us each week! Hope you’re enjoying your waning days of summer and your pool before school begins again. 🙂

  12. Betty Draper

    We thank God for the lessons those survivors teach us. I know a few people I would want to live around if the going gets rough. They know how to survive on very little. What a joy to read you are ministering to the homeless Lisa, ,good for you.

  13. Maree Dee

    Thank you for sharing about your friendship with Buck. Your words really spoke to my heart. You stated it so eloquently.

    “So for now, I’ll keep stepping into Buck’s world and pray it makes mine a little less plastic and a lot more authentic. That it makes his a little less lonely and a lot more loved.

    Our previous separate worlds will improve and merge at the intersection. It becomes less about our differences and more about our similarities.

    The same God put both Buck and me in this same world.

    And we are survivors together.”

  14. Suzanne Marie Sholer

    Never in a million years could I ever have imagined becoming homeless. I am well-educated with two University degrees and over 20 years of teaching experience. Yet, here I am – like Christ -homeless.
    I have learned a great deal about being a person who has “no place to rest their head” over the past two years of couch surfing, living on the streets, staying in homeless shelters, renting hotel rooms, and sleeping in parks.
    As I have travelled around from town to town seeking medical procedures that were requisitioned for me, I have come to see that people who are homeless are the same as people who have homes – except they have no permanent place of residency.
    Just as many people abuse alcohol and drugs who live in mansions – there are people who have no homes doing that too.
    Just as many people in stately homes have emotional or mental illness issues – there are also those without homes who have these difficulties too.
    And yes, just as many people who have lovely homes have a good education and are well-adjusted, you will find people like this without homes too.
    The one thing that stands out as extremely different about people who do not have a permanent place of residence and those with a permanent home is how people lump them all together in one category. We do not speak of people who have a permanent residence as the “over-housed”. When individuals are lumped together into a category, it is then that ugly “isms” change their story and interfere with their being able to get proper healthcare and services which we as a society have decided to provide.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thank you for sharing these great insights, Suzanne. You’re right that people who are homeless and people who have homes are far more alike than different! Becoming homeless could happen to any of us under the right conditions. And it behooves us to remember that, so we won’t think of it as us vs them. We’re all “us.”

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