They call it HOLE for short.
They get together in downtown Salt Lake City, bundled up against the frigid weather. They fill their arms with bagels, water, fruit, and warm clothes, and they disperse onto the street.
They then go out and simply serve people.
Homeless people come in all shapes and sizes, you know. They wear flip flops in ten degree weather, roll their own cigarettes, sometimes are missing a leg, and always have a story. A story that they love telling to a group of incredible young adults who honestly love listening to them.
Not all of them are druggies, drunk, or mental. In fact, most of them aren’t. That was one of the first realizations that I was struck with. These people, though dirty and ragged, are not out here by their own desire to be homeless and sad.
They have lost more than you or I could ever imagine losing. Mothers have lost young daughters, sons have lost mothers and sisters, and wives have lost husbands and children to accidents, fires, finances… If your heart doesn’t break while listening to some of the stories they have to tell, nothing will break it.
I’ll never forget Gary’s words as he told us about his siblings dying of drug overdoses and his mother passing away. He said, “I’m telling you this – my life story – because you will listen. You guys genuinely seem like you want to listen, and no one’s ever done that before.”
Wow. To be the person who listens to someone when no one else will… who helps them and cares for them when no one else does… Isn’t that what Jesus called has called us to do? Isn’t that how he set his example? He didn’t serve the rich people, the classy people with beautifully furnished homes and plenty of money. He loved on beggars, cripples, and straight-up sinners. And I’m all about following his example.
All these people want is little warmth and a lot of love. They’re just as deserving of it as anyone else.
What absolutely got to me was watching Peggy’s grin, missing teeth and all, after she received a Bible with her name engraved on it, which was given to her by some of the people who run HOLE a few weeks before I got to Utah. She jokingly scolded the cameraman, “Don’t you tell nobody that I cried,” but you could just tell it meant the whole world to her.
This Christmas vacation filled me with an overwhelming burden for people who are so in need, so hopeless, and so desperate. They are crying out for help in their own way, but it’s not like they have a means by which they can express their voices. Unless, of course, you’re willing to listen.
James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
I’d say HOLE is doing a pretty good job.