I feel that we all uniquely crave connection and to feel a part of a community and to have a sense of belonging. And for individuals experiencing homelessness, this sense of community may look very different from our mainstream understanding of companionship. Yet, I have seen how the deep ache in each and every one of us to feel loved and valued is often strengthened through the nurturing presence of little fluffy four-legged creatures…dogs! We have met many pups on the streets, and I am constantly amazed by the adoration the owners have for their furry friends. One of the men who found a stray dog explained, “I suppose we are both strays. I don’t know what I would do without this little guy.”
I can’t help but think that we are all strays on a journey to discovering a deeper truth in our lives. There are times that we stray from our true selves, and lose touch of our identity in God. Though our personal living situations may look different than those whom are without a home, I hold that we can all relate to his feelings of loneliness, displacement and just feeling lost in this crazy world. It’s so easy to view the entire homeless population as one entity, and in doing so to dehumanize each person. I have come to appreciate the individuality of each person, and the raw emotions and burdens that they carry each and every day. They too are children of God, who long for human connection and a sense of belonging in society.
It brings me great comfort to know that the Lord never wavers on how He sees us, loves us and comforts us. Even when we doubt or question ourselves, our identity in Him remains uniquely intimate & eternal. He longs to surprise us and sow seeds of community into our lives. He desires to always validate our existence and to provide comfort through the spirit of companionship. God has this special way of connecting with each one of us in a very personal way. My friend illuminated God’s longing to break bread with each one of us…even if that bread comes in the form of a dog treat!
Maura Wallace is a volunteer with the Change A Heart Franciscan Volunteer Program in Pittsburgh, PA where she serves at Pittsburgh Mercy/Operation Safety Net.