The empty stairwell

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I know of this church in the city where there is an enclosed stairwell in which the homeless go in search of safety and shelter. A couple of weeks ago I discovered a couple pairs of feet sticking out of the stairwell. I didn't want to wake the individuals who were attached to the feet so I went to the church’s copy room which doubles as my office and sitting down began to read my bible.

I know of this church in the city where there is an enclosed stairwell in which the homeless go in search of safety and shelter. A couple of weeks ago I discovered a couple pairs of feet sticking out of the stairwell. I didn't want to wake the individuals who were attached to the feet so I went to the church’s copy room which doubles as my office and sitting down began to read my bible.

No sooner had I read through the first sentence God spoke to my heart as clear as can be and said, "Make them breakfast".  I thought about it for a while then quickly went to work in the kitchen fixing up a couple plates of food. Nothing too fancy just some scrambled eggs, cut up hot dogs and a bun wrapped in tin foil and carried with love out to the stairwell.

When I appeared back out at the stairwell I must have startled the young man and woman who were fast asleep. They did not want any trouble and were very eager to leave without incident.

"We don't want any trouble; we will leave" said the young man.

"Wait" I said with a smile "I made you breakfast"

Their eyes widened and both of their jaws dropped. They were hungry and also needed to use the church’s restrooms. When they returned I was able to share my faith in Jesus Christ. Remember, People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. Actions speak louder than words.

Eddie and Joanna were Native American Indians from the Rincon tribe. Eddie was 20 years old while Joanna, I later found out later, was 24 years old. Eddie had just been released from jail on a petty theft charge, caught shoplifting food from a mini mart. He was trying to feed his family.

Many street travelers have used the stairwell over the years as a safe haven for the night. These kids were no exception. They had nowhere to go. I have been homeless myself before so I can totally relate to their situation. I had no problem with the couple seeking refuge in the stairwell but as it turned out the rest of the church did.

"It’s against the law,” said one church staffer.

"We were told by the police not to let people sleep on our property." said another associate pastor.

"Please don't encourage them to sleep here" said someone else.

"I had to paint the stairwell 2 times last week because they really messed it up" said one of the maintenance workers. So the decision was made and signs went up in the stairwell “No sleeping allowed in the stairwell.”

This is where my heart broke. These could be my own children. Jesus taught us to help others. Why do people hold material things higher than real people? Why was it so hard just to help these kids the best we can? Wouldn’t it be simpler just continuing to clean up the stairwell?

Dawn came early today as I arrived to do my usual cleaning of the church before everyone began arriving. As I passed the empty stairwell, all bright and clean with a brand new coat of paint, I remembered Eddie and Joanna and the expression on their faces as they ate their breakfast. I wondered if the right decision was made.  I know an opportunity to love two souls, in Jesus name, was missed. So the last few nights passed without the restlessness of Eddie and Joanna constant turning in an attempt to find a comfortable spot on the cold concrete of the landing.

Well I know where there is a cold, empty stairwell on the boulevard tonight. It’s a lonely stairwell that once kept two young souls safe from the dangers of a night on the street. It is now however a very clean, bright and shiny place complete with a fresh coat of gray paint, you might even call its appearance pristine. But I liked it better dirty, urine soaked with cigarette ashes caught in the corners of the landing where it stood as a standing reminder that there are people in need of our help. I liked the stairwell better when it had two pairs of warm human feet sticking out.

I wonder which stairwell Jesus Christ would have preferred. I ponder the thought as to whether the people in our church would have allowed Him to sleep there? Material things will be left behind but the relationships we make will last for eternity.

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