Last week I had reason to be in down town Los Angeles. I mean, down town! If you know the area, I was doing laps around MacArthur Park looking for a coffee shop. Since I have lived in suburbia for the last 45 years or so, my eyes are always widened a bit when I visit a major city and wander around the streets. And so it was on this trip as well.
As I drove around, I found myself making some mental notes of folks I was seeing. There was the little older lady (maybe 95 years old) who was dressed in a fluorescent red jump suit with a dressy red ball cap. There were the three teens who were sitting and eating in the middle of the only parking spot still left in front of a McDonalds. (Not on the curb, in the middle of the parking spot!)
There was the gentleman “using the restroom” with the bathroom door wide open. Someone was ringing some Christmas bells. And a homeless gentleman was sipping coffee in Starbucks as he pecked away at his lap top computer.
On my way home as I was rehearsing the sights, smells and sounds inside my head, I began to hum Chris Tomlin’s great song, “God of the City.” In part, it goes like this: “You’re the God of this city, you’re the King of these people, you’re the Lord of these nations, you are! You’re the light in this darkness, you’re the hope to the hopeless, you’re the peace to the restless, you are!”
It didn’t take very long for me to be ashamed of my quick disdain for some of the people I had just rubbed shoulders with. So I began to wonder about the folks living in my own neighborhood. I looked up some statistics. In Orange County, California (a very prosperous county I might add), we have over 35,000 homeless looking for a place to spend the night. A third of those people are children. There are 41 shelters, but they only offer 2647 beds on any given night.
According to the “Second Harvest Food Bank” website, “nearly half of public school kids rely on reduced or free school lunches for their major source of nutrition. That is 227,820 kids who may be going to bed hungry on weekends and during summer vacation.” That is an increase of 24% over the last decade. And that is right here in my county!
And, “according to the Elder Economic Security Index, which figures housing, food, transportation and health care cost, more that 15% of Orange County seniors don’t have enough money for adequate food.”
It seems that the needs for services is so great in my county, that the local government has a comprehensive information and referral system that can be activated by calling 2-1-1. When you dial that number, you are given information about an incredible array of health and human services available here, right here in my “city.”
I am thinking that this week you might like to join me in some soul searching about the needs of people right in our own backyards. God is indeed the God of our city, our county, our state and our nation. But He needs you and me to be His hands and feet.
By His Grace and for His Glory,
Sherry L. Worel