GIFTS FOR OUR NEIGHBORS
What’s your first thought when you seem someone who is on the side of the road with a sign asking for money or when you see someone on the sidewalk who is experiencing homelessness? Really though. Usually our first thought goes something into the realm of discomfort, awkwardness, defensiveness, pity, self-protection. Our culture sees money and possession as an identifier for what our worth is. If you have nothing, you are nothing. Because we live in this culture, we often assimilate to the thought patterns and actions around us.
But what if when we saw people who were experiencing homelessness, or asking for aid, and our first thought was the same as if we saw a friend. You would make eye contact with them, give them a hug or wave, say hi, maybe stop and talk, and think “oh I love them and that they are my friend.”
What if we even just thought of them as a neighbor. How would we react to a neighbor that we generally like? (Even maybe if we really didn’t know anything about them). Again, we would make eye contact, wave through your car as your driving by, give a smile, and think “ya know, they’re a pretty cool neighbor.”
Why don’t we think about that with everyone? And specifically, why do we especially not think that way with our neighbors that are going through a hard season? Sometimes we can’t even get ourselves to make eye contact while we are walking down the street, or give a wave when we are driving.
So this Christmas, I want to change that.
I want to do something different, and I want to build relationships with the people who are around me every single day. The people who are my neighbors and deserve to be known and seen just as anyone else does.
I love when people feel a pull to give money or to make packages to give out to people who may be living on the street. I did it for the first few weeks of fall quarter and those short interactions to meet someone new and see a new face gave me so much joy. But two other girls and I wanted to go a step further. We did not want to assume what anyone wanted or needed. We did not want this to be a mindless interaction, but rather an intentional relationship building time, where we also get to give gifts (because gift giving is my love language and it is so much fun to give and receive!!)
So we put together a very intentional plan. One of the girls that I’m partnering with works at the Bailey Boushay House through Virginia Mason, and was able to give SO many good resources on interactions, concentration maps, sensitive and considerate language, and also just good boundaries when talking to strangers in general.
My heart behind this is to not have a savior complex. If there was any risk that it could come across that way, I was willing to pull out at any time. I want this to be a time to meet people, and just give presents. Presents that people actually want.
So here’s the execution part of it!
It’s November 27th as I’m writing this, and we have been raising money for a week and a half to two weeks now. On Sunday morning, the 2nd, we are going to gather for a training held by me, Stanzi, and Junelle so that we can go over how we are hoping for the day to go! We will go over all of the resources we have on interactions, boundaries, language, as well as explain the logistics. The most important things that we want to emphasize though are:
1) this is not a production where we are going out to help helpless people. So with that, not pictures or videos will be taken. This isn’t a project, this is relationship.
2) let the Spirit lead. Everything could go differently than planned, but if it’s Spirit lead, that’s all that matters.
We’re then going to split up into groups and each one will take a car to downtown Seattle. Each group will have a set amount of money that they can use for that day (but if they want to go over and use their own money - go for it!)
The rest is going to be up to God.
We will only be in pairs of 2 max when having interactions with people. We don’t want to come off as aggressive or attacking. We’ll introduce ourselves, just as you would if you were meeting a new person anywhere else, and ask if we can sit with them. From there, we’ll ask if we can buy them a gift! What do they need? What do they want? Everyone has things that they want, in addition to what they need, and those things can be so much more fun to receive.
If that item is easily accessible at one of the stores around us (there’s a Target close by, yay!), then we’ll ask if they want to come with us to pick it out them-self. This will make it so that we can continue relationship building, and also so that they get to choose exactly what they wanted, and there is nothing left up to interpretation. We will also have someone stay back to watch anything that they might not be able to carry while walking to the store and make sure that it’s protected.
If it’s not within walking distance, then we will ask them if they can stay in the same place for however long we think it may take to get that item, and then we’ll go get it! (We’re going to have our cars parked in the Target parking lot so that we don’t have to pay for parking and then it’s close by haha) Even if they want a sandwich from the Chick-Fill-A in Lynnwood, we will get that. I don’t want us to cut corners because it may take more time. I would much rather do quality over quantity.
I have so much excitement and anticipation with the expectancy of everything that Jesus will do on Sunday.
We have already raised $627 as I am writing this right now! Any money we don’t end up using will be donated to the Seattle Union Gospel Mission on Sunday night.
With all of this, I want to invite you to partner alongside us! Whether it be through prayer or encouragement, physically coming with us on Sunday the 2nd, of financially partnering with this opportunity. Our goal is to get to $1000. This is a BIG goal, but hey, our God is pretty big. If you do want to financially donate, the preferred method of donation is through Venmo. My username is @sydneyema. If you prefer to use gofundme.com, we also have that available through this link:
I’ll post an update after Sunday, and I’m so excited to share how it goes!