This summer I decided that I was going to read the Bible everyday. I started with the gospel of Matthew (the first book in the New Testament). Jesus repeatedly talks about impoverished and homeless people in Matthew. Naturally, I began to see impoverished people in a different light, especially the homeless people who I see everyday on the streets while walking to work. I began to have thoughts about the stigma against homeless people and how to combat that. Then, at one of our weekly reflection sessions with the group, I had the idea to start a project where I invite a homeless person or someone working on the streets to coffee or tea with me.
A couple of days later, after much thought about my idea, I was still unsure about starting the project. What would I get out of it? More importantly, how would the homeless person be impacted by it? With these thoughts in my mind, I began to read the next passage that I left off on in my Bible. I happened to start off on Matthew 20:29. In this section, Jesus heals two blind men. The passage is as follows:
29 As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. 30 Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”
31 The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”
32 Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
33 “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.”
34 Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.
The two blind men can be interpreted to be homeless, as they “were sitting by the roadside.” When they asked Jesus for help, “the crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet.” Isn’t this how some people treat the homeless? By ignoring them and dehumanizing them? Instead of ignoring them himself, “Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and follow him.”
After studying this passage, I immediately thought of a blind woman who sings for money everyday outside of my office building. I knew that God was calling me to start this project. The next day I spent my lunch break with the blind woman, Sylvia.
Sylvia is a strong mother of two married to a man who suffers from a debilitating mental illness. As a result, she is the main provider for her household. She talked to me about the many challenges she has in her life, but also talked about the way in which she copes with these challenges – her faith in Jesus Christ. After speaking with Sylvia, I decided to start a blog about these amazing people so that others will also be able to experience their stories.
I plan to continue this project while I’m abroad in the fall and when I come back to Durham in the spring. I think this is why Duke spends thousands of dollars on each student to send them to a new community: so that students can experience new ideas in a new setting and bring these ideas and experiences back to the US.
If you would like to read more about Sylvia’s story as well as others, visit my blog at: rachelhennein.wordpress.com