What Are You Stashing?

“Sometimes we are all cynical. We make a judgement without fully understanding the facts. We do not consider or have the capacity to see the entire picture. We are flat out wrong.

Friday night was one of those moments for me.

Some precious older ladies, from a partner church ministry, have been producing a bunch of grocery sack sleeping mats for street friends. When they finish another mat, another mat shows up at our house.

Time kept going fast and the mats kept multiplying because we were never “making” time to go visit street friends. Plus, I kept believing – these mats are too big and bulky and won’t be what our street friends need. So, like a moron, I let those mats sit on our back porch instead of being rolled out as a bed for someone in our city. What’s wrong with me?!

Some even suggested… let one of our homeless ministry partners give those out. That kinda stung me. Why were we not making time?

The thing is… some people are scared of homeless people. I don’t get that. I’m firmly convinced these people have never met homeless people. Homeless people are completely ordinary people. They are like you and me. They are broken, only their brokenness kind of spilled out everywhere, so it is easier to see, but we’re all broken too.

The mats, though. They were so big and bulky. I tried to carry one and thought, “how could I carry this AND a backpack? Nothing about this is practical.”

Well, Friday night we had an intern in town from Tennessee, so we decided to go “survey” some street friends. To ask them, “how can these mats be useful?”

We met the first four people under one of the fun, color creative bridges near Railroad Park in downtown Birmingham. We started by saying… “we don’t want to insult you. What do you think about these mats? How would you carry them? Are they too big? How can we make these better?”

Of course, “cynical self” thought they would totally bash these mats. Guess what they said, “they are perfect. It doesn’t matter what size they are. We can stash them.”

Right. Exactly what I never considered. They never would need to walk around town with these bulky mats. They would STASH them. Brilliant. The part of the story I couldn’t see.

Then, a couple was there and we offered them the big one. They spread it out and they both could fit on it, side by side, like a double bed. Really God?! They were so thankful.

Another man came up to hug me and kissed me on the forehead to thank us for bringing them beds, going on and on about how much better it was going to be not to have to sleep on concrete. Yeah, and these mats had sat on our back porch for six months, STASHED, because I was convinced they wouldn’t be useful and I had made no time to find out. Wow. Guilt. Forgive me God!

Jimmy asked Denver and Ellie, the intern, if we had more. Then he took them across the street, with extra mats, to bless the friends on that side of the bridge. Two were mute and he did not want them to be missed. Then, Jimmy came to tell me husband, “man, I got divorced and ended up losing everything and living on the street. (Then he looks up at the sky and says,) BUT JESUS. HE just gave me
a bed!”

Guess what the only recommendation was… Sew two of the mats together to make them thicker. (Which of course will only make them bigger. But remember, they will STASH them.)

What’s your cynical blind spot? I sure learned one of mine that I will quit stashing.

Ideas for a night on the town:

  • Ice down a cooler full of bottled water and give out to all the street friends you can find.
  • Take a board game or a deck of cards under the bridge and go play it with some new friends.
  • Use your eat out money to buy ingredients for your best grandmama cooking. Spend the afternoon preparing the small serving containers that serve 1 person each. Make about 20 of those dishes and deliver them hot. Sit down and eat with your new friends.
  • Take a drum or guitar and go make some music with your new friends.”

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” – Matthew 7:1-2

– Jenny Waltman


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