As we prepare for another holiday season and the busyness that comes with it, I’d like you to take a moment and think about the importance of human connection or in some cases re-connection.
As humans, our need for social connection is as strong as the need for food, water and warmth. And when we experience social pain, like feeling degraded, undeserving or unloved, the feeling is as real as physical pain.
In fact, this is one of the first things God said, “It’s not good for man to be alone.” We were created for connection. We were created in the image of God and The Bible says God is love. And to love, you have to have somebody to love.
I come from a broken home. My parents divorced when I was in 8th grade. However, even divorced, we still got together and celebrated as family – with grandparents. I was fortunate that my family valued connection and an ability to look past differences and come together to celebrate the holidays.
This is why I’m so grateful for San Diego Rescue Mission. Our holiday meals provide an opportunity for those experiencing homelessness to feel taken care of. To feel loved. It’s a place where the lost and lonely can find connection and feel part of a family.
I saw this need for connection in the eyes of a women who joined us during this year’s Thanksgiving Outreach Meal. As she headed out the door after she’d finished eating, I saw her crying so I leaned down and asked what’s wrong? “I’m just so happy”, she said.
This feeling of human connection can extend far beyond a holiday meal. It is often the first step needed to begin the healing process.
In fact, one of our recent graduates, Nathaniel, first came to us during last year’s holiday meal. He was struggling with health issues and under great financial stress, which lead him to homelessness. When he showed up at our holiday meal, he explained:
“I’m crutching around the dining room tables, looking for a place to sit and I can’t fit down the aisles because there’s so many people. So, I find a seat at the end of the table and a man named Phil comes over to me – he was very kind – he takes my crutches and moves them for me, and then serves me like I’m at a restaurant. And when he brings my food, he asks how I’m recovering and what my story is. He was genuinely concerned so I told him my whole story.”
The connection they made that day inspired Nathaniel to join Phil’s church. Phil and other members of his church began to mentor Nathaniel and have continued to walk with him as he’s worked on his program.
Nathaniel has not only had an amazing recovery and is walking again, but this October, he graduated from our year long recovery program. Thanks to the encounter he had at our Thanksgiving Meal he’s developed an incredible support network of friends and mentors at his local church that will continue to walk with him in life.
We were created for connection. A loving, supportive relationship can literally be a matter of life and death.
By the time San Diego’s homeless men and women walk through our doors, they have exhausted all relationships and resources. They need to regain a sense of connection as much as they need a meal and safe shelter. And that sense of connection starts with Jesus.
So this holiday, and into the new year, I invite you to focus on connection. Strengthening connections to those around you, those who need you, and to Jesus.
Thank you for your continued support in helping us lovingly address the needs of those experiencing homelessness in San Diego. We wish you a grateful and joyful Holiday Season!