I can’t make this person talk to me.
It is very easy to let a rejection with the homeless, or in life, get to me. Realistically, I know when I approach someone on street ministry I cannot expect them to want to talk to me, but I really hope they want to.
We often say that the first gift we give to the homeless or a stranger when we introduce ourselves is taking the awkwardness of a first encounter upon ourselves. We offer a free gift of our time and presence to the homeless, which means they have the free will to accept or reject this gift, but man, I want them to accept it.
Intellectually, I know what a free gift is. As a gift giver, I give the freedom of the other to accept or reject the gift. There is a risk with every giving of a gift that it will be rejected. It’s a risk we take regularly. And in all honesty, I’m really used to people accepting my gifts. So much so that it’s easy to get discouraged or put my identity in a rejection. This summer my understanding of the freedom of a gift was tested.
During the Summer of Service in Los Angeles, I got rejected and denied a lot. I got yelled at and cursed at in a way that I couldn’t help but be impressed by the creativity of profanities so eloquently put together in a sentence. During these rejections, I had an overwhelming sense of peace in knowing that I did all I could in the moment. I knew that I was walking into these people’s “home turf” and taking a risk. A risk for the Gospel and to show them the love of Christ.
This is the closest I have ever been to understanding the gifts God has given to me. As our loving parent, God the Father freely gives me gift after gift. I am in disbelief at how, regardless of my acceptance or rejection of His love and gifts, He still continues to give them.
It is easy to give when I know my gifts will be accepted and embraced. But I can barely think of any occasions where I have continued to offer gifts to those I know will reject them.
The saints show me a different way to give: in imitation of God the Father. A Father who gives with total respect toward the freedom of the recipient. A Giver whose identity is not changed or even affected by acceptance or rejection. For these things are out of our control when we accept the other’s free will.
It is not my duty or responsibility to control how the recipient receives. All I can control is my response to the simple nudges of the Holy Spirit throughout my day to give. This makes my aim simple. To each and every person I encounter, small things or big things, spiritual gifts or material gifts, I am called to freely give.
“The success of love is in the loving—it is not in the result of loving. Of course it is natural in love to want the best for the other person, but whether it turns out that way or not does not determine the value of what we have done. The more we can remove this priority for results the more we can learn about the contemplative element of love.” – Mother Teresa
Blake served as a missionary from 2015-2017 and is now Christ in the City’s Program Director. His favorite saints are JPII, Mother Teresa, St. Joseph and St. Monica. He enjoys Husker football, Dr. Pepper, and road trips.