Daniel and Amanda’s Weblog

March 25, 2008

The great chasm

I used this analogy while talking to my friend Josh about our attempt at bringing homeless people over to our house. The ideas was to go pick up 2 or 3 homeless men or women (or a family) and bring them over to enjoy a pot roast we’d bought for half off. Like before, I assumed I could at least find a couple guys in the Village area, but first tried 3 other places. In the end, I didn’t bring anyone home, so we had a nice dinner with friends and played a game for a bit. Nobody said no, it’s just that I didn’t every find anyone to ask. Here are the reasons.

1. Centennial Park. I drove around looking for someone who was obviously homeless, then I guess my plan was to just go let them know that my wife and I had prepared a meal and we wanted to invite someone who didn’t have plans for dinner over. The only people I saw were two black men, one in mid 40’s probably and the other likely over 60. Though they were dressed poorly and similar to other homeless men I’ve been around, I didn’t want to assume they were homeless, and walk up and offer something to them. Being white, I felt like it could be seen as racial profiling.

2. Campus for Human Development. In Nashville, if you’re homeless and you want a place to stay, you can go to the Campus and try to get a ticket (at least during the colder months of the year). If you get a ticket, you will go to one of the many churches around town who offer their space through a program called Room at the Inn. When I drove up to the Campus, my hope was that I could find 2 or 3 people who didn’t get a ticket for that night and invite them over at least for a hot meal and a shower / new clothes if they so desired. There were probably 100 people standing around as I pulled in. I asked a couple of guys what the process was, and they let me know how the giving of tickets would go down. Then I told a man who worked and lived there what I wanted to do, so he took me inside to the lady behind the counter. She was in charge, I guess. Before I finished telling her what I wanted to do, she was saying how that I should never ever invite a homeless person into my home, because it’s just not safe. When I suggested that I might try to find someone that I already knew, she continued by demanding she would never in good conscience recommend that, even if it was a homeless person I know. My spirits sunk, and I drove on. The tickets had not been given out yet, and I didn’t want to invite anyone who had the possibility of getting in at the Room at the Inn.

3. The Academy. This is an addiction recovery program where men live and learn new skills or trades. I’ve met about 7 of them so far through volunteer eye exams at my clinic. One of them is writing a book about his experience there, and asked for permission to write about me, so I’d already mentioned to him the possibility of coming over for dinner sometime. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the number to the Academy with me, and I drove around for probably 30 minutes unable to find it.

4. Hillsboro Village, where so far we’ve been 100% successful finding guys who wanted a free home cooked meal, was almost completely deserted. I drove home, alone, back to my wife and my friends…people just like me.

There exists this great chasm that seems to exist in order to keep people within their own class (and skin color, and nationality, and religion, and….).

It seems widest where it divides the very rich and the very poor.

It’s filled with fear, with thoughts of safety, with prejudice, with comfort, and with concerns for public image along with desires to impress peers.

Spanning it are just a few bridges like interracial marriages, church congregations of many different classes and colors, and occasional working situations that make truly equal black and white, native American and Asian, male and female, Christian and Muslim.

Its steep cliffs are frightening, enough to constantly deter one from reaching the distant banks…even for someone who truly desires to cross it.

My hope is that I can keep fighting it. To keep valid concerns such as safety in mind, but not let that keep me from doing what I feel is right.

Any thoughts?



  1. A friend sent this to me and I thought it kind of applies to here.. see what you think

    People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
    If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
    If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
    If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
    What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
    If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
    The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
    Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
    In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

    [this is from mother teresa…great words…and so true…]

    Comment by Charles Harris — March 25, 2008 @ 7:12 pm | Reply

  2. I feel ashamed for what the lady at Room In The Inn said about not being able to trust any homeless person to the point of allowing them in your house. That means she doesn’t trust me either. Sure there are some very untrustworthy people on the street, but some very kind and friendly and deserving people on the street too. Maybe she didn’t want to get sued if something were to go wrong. But things can go wrong with your next door neighbor in your house just as easily.

    With people working in the homeless industry having such an outlook on all homeless people, where is there any help for anyone? This fear has really got to be broken somehow.

    Comment by kevin — March 25, 2008 @ 9:30 pm | Reply

  3. Daniel,
    I have read your site with interest, and congratulate you and your wife
    on walking the talk! You are so far ahead of us who know what we
    should be doing, but don’t act…for whatever reasons. Please continue
    what you are doing, and continue sharing it with us, you are an inspiration.

    Our small church is having their last room in the inn this Sat. at 6pm in
    Kingston springs. We host 8-10 men every other week during the winter
    months. It is a real good expierence to sit and eat and talk with them.
    You are welcome to come and bring a pot roast, you will know at least
    one person….. Lisa V(Worked with you in Ashland City )

    Comment by Lisa — March 25, 2008 @ 10:23 pm | Reply

  4. I would start volunteering somewhere that you can meet homeless people. Then you can get their phone numbers and call them when you need to find them. :)

    Comment by jamie — March 26, 2008 @ 8:28 am | Reply

  5. I agree with kevin when he writes, “Sure there are some very untrustworthy people on the street, but some very kind and friendly and deserving people on the street too.”

    I’ve invited many homeless folks to my home for food, showers and overnight stays and I’ve never had any problems at all. It was always a wonderful experience and they were kind and grateful.
    Maybe it would work best for you if you truly got to know some of them and became friends with them instead of just picking up strangers.

    Best of luck to you,


    Comment by Katia Roberts — March 26, 2008 @ 2:09 pm | Reply

  6. Great post, well said.

    Comment by Ariah Fine — March 26, 2008 @ 3:19 pm | Reply

  7. I know some very untrustworthy folks who have perfectly wonderful homes. I also know some untrustworthy volunteers who work in social service agencies, soup kitchens and homeless shelters (stealing food and supplies). I also know some homeless people who I could trust with my life.

    If I were to make a generalization based on this experience I would NEVER invite a ‘homed’ person for dinner to my house — especially a homeless shelter volunteer…but I’d invite a whole crew of homeless people. Suggesting that you can’t trust a homeless guest in your house is just as silly.

    God bless you in your efforts, and please do not let others deflate your good works. Remember Jesus was a homeless man — could you imagine that woman not inviting Jesus over for dinner?

    Peace to you.

    Comment by Don — March 26, 2008 @ 8:32 pm | Reply

  8. I’m encouraged by your compassion for the homeless. I admit that I was less than kind to them my first go round in the city and I have been convicted that I need to change my heart next time.

    The only problem I have is that I know giving them money isn’t a good idea and I’m rarely carrying around food to share. I really struggle with what a good Christian response to the problem is. I don’t want to be heartless, but I don’t want to help enable either. I think the idea of simply reaching out and offering a meal or shelter is really great and I hope God really changes my heart on the matter.

    Comment by Jason J — April 1, 2008 @ 9:34 am | Reply

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