Don't Walk By: Providing Dignity and Hospitality
Don’t Walk By is an annual outreach that’s organized by the Rescue Alliance, a collaboration of faith-based organizations working together to restore the wellbeing of men, women, and children in New York City who are experiencing homelessness. Every Saturday in February, during one of the coldest winter months, volunteers canvas the streets of Manhattan, meeting people and inviting them back to an anchor church where they are offered a hot meal, clothing, basic medical care, and an opportunity to connect with holistic recovery programs.
My community group volunteered last year and the experience had a powerful effect on us. We were on the hospitality team and as the street teams who canvas the neighborhoods brought in guests, it was our job to pack and deliver specially made backpacks that were designed for the homeless, a blanket, a toothbrush, a comb and a few pairs of socks. As we delivered them to the guests as they sat down to eat, their reaction to the gifts blew me away.
Nearly every person who I spoke with was overcome with gratitude and wanted to shake our hands and sincerely thank us as they enjoyed their food. Some were even in tears. It seemed our guests could not believe that despite their situation, they were welcomed to a banquet and treated like royalty, like the beautiful people that they are. This sounded quite familiar and reminded me that Jesus, despite my record, has welcomed me to his heavenly banquet.
Not only did our homeless guests leave with full stomachs, they had the chance to do something as routine as brush their teeth for a few days. They would have the dignity that so many in their situation don’t feel they have. Something so simple can mean so much.
Graham Girard is a Community Group leader and member of Redeemer Downtown.
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