“You did what?” my wife asked.
“I sold our house.”
“You mean we are homeless?”
“Well, yes, I guess you might say that.”
It was then that it hit me: For the first time in 37 years, we did not have a house to call our own.
My thoughts quickly went to people who really are homeless. The internet describes homelessness as living in housing that is below the minimum standard or lacks secure tenure. By that standard, we were not genuinely homeless. I quickly rented a house across town to live in until we could move to a new place of service. Still, as I sat in my driveway realizing I no longer had a house, it felt rather strange. It made me a little sad.
Sometimes people’s homes are destroyed by tornado or fire. Our daughter’s house was destroyed by a fire. It was traumatic for us all. Recently, many people lost their homes in the Caribbean hurricane. Entire communities and cities were wiped out.
It is difficult to imagine the suffering of the hundreds of homeless. I once met a man living under a bridge in Kansas City. He insisted he liked living there — liked the freedom from responsibilities. I doubted his veracity; but no matter, the city soon made him move on.
During the 1980s, our church brought several homeless families to our community from Cambodia. They were made homeless by the tyranny of Pol Pot. The church provided housing for them, but they quickly established homes, found work, and became part of the community. It was a good experience for everyone. We were all proud.
In the early days of our country, houses were often heated by fireplaces. At night the family would gather round the fire to warm themselves before going off to bed in unheated bedrooms. Those warm gatherings did much to shape families. It would not help to tell today’s homeless of those fireplace family talks because first they need a home.
If Jesus were speaking to us today, he might very well say, “I was homeless, and you provided for me…” (see Matthew 25:35ff). Recognizing the need for adequate housing, former President Jimmy Carter continues at age 95 to work with Habitat for Humanity to provide housing for those in need. May his tribe increase.