What Lasts is Love

homeless sign

My mentee Ally and I volunteered at a homeless shelter together last week. We handed out toothpaste, floss, towels, and more from a supply closet to the men at the shelter.

We spoke to a man whose dog Bobo had all the guests (and us!) enraptured. Another man told me about his son who died at age 18 – and I shared about my brother, in heaven at the same age. We reasoned they were likely having a party together now. Do you think age matters in heaven, that you tend to make friends with people your age like you do on earth?

We didn’t always have what the men requested – eyeglasses so they could read, clean boxers, or the right charger for their phones. The needs felt so great in this building where dozens of men shared one communal room in which to sleep and find shelter from the cold.

On the way home, Ally shared with conviction, “I want to make sure I put actions behind my words. I want to love God and love people, and I want to act on this.” We both felt confronted with the gaping needs that exist in the world at large and in our backyard specifically. The world is hungry for connection and survival. People need homes, community, and healing for the broken places in their hearts. They need comfort, kindness, and compassion. They need to know they matter.

I could rewrite those sentences exactly like this, too: I need a home, community, and healing for the broken places in my heart. I need comfort, kindness, and compassion. I need to know I matter.

This is not us-versus-them or any sort of saviorism. We are poor in spirit, fragile and human, together.

This world of numbing – social media, comfort, wealth – might allow us to block out our own needs and the needs of others for a time. But it is not what lasts. What lasts is only love: active love, patient love, giving love, tenacious love.

Ally and I then spoke about how we’ve changed each others’ lives – she has transformed mine, and I’ve impacted her. We met four years ago, and our lives have intersected ever since. She’s taught me to know God better as we’ve studied scripture together. I’ve taught her to prep for a job interview. She’s taught me the power of encouragement and truth. I’m teaching her to apply for college.

It’s relationships that change the world. It’s tenacious love, it’s commitment, it’s picking a place to love and sinking down deep and not letting go. The work of love requires great humility – it requires us to address our biases, our pride, our insecurities, and our shame.  Love is the toughest work that there is.

And we need you for it.

We need your courage, your conviction, and your care. We need your passion, personality, skills, and experiences.

Looking for a  place to continue to grow in the practice of love? One idea is among the people Jesus himself loved – mainly, everyone around him – but also, specifically, the poor. “Feed the hungry and clothe the poor and visit those in prison,” he said (summarized from Matthew 25).

I frequently think of the quote from Friar Gustavo Gutierrez, 

“You say you love the poor –  name them.” 

And it causes me to ask myself, “Do I love the poor? Do I know the poor?”

Jesus loved the poor. The poor exist in our cities and country and world. Could we go and love the poor this week? We cannot love the poor without receiving love ourselves, because we ourselves are poor. And as we find ourselves transformed by love, we can take the resources we have and the gifts we’ve received and act on love. We can meet needs – physical needs, relational needs, and more – and we can find ourselves transformed, too.

In the work of love, we find our own poverty, our own humanity, and the kinship we share with the world. The act of love does not just change the world, it changes us.

We are called to love. Do you hear it, this call? Would you respond to it this week?


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