Yesterday I had a chance to join a friend here in Portland who goes out every Saturday with a homemade lunch and feeds some of the many homeless in Portland. His operation is mobile, they go where some of the more destitute and immobile are encamped in parks, on sidewalks, in cul-de-sacs. Some would say that simply giving food to the homeless perpetuates and creates dependency. In general I agree with this view.
However, I saw how homemade sloppy joes, chips, oranges, cookies, and water can create and sustain connection. These are people who have lost all connection with the mainstream world, and the connections that are nurtured with food and drink are life sustaining and generative (for both the "givers" and the "receivers"). In some cases these relationships have developed to the point of walking alongside people into rehab and church.
I was most struck by seeing my friend vigorously hug some of the folks that he's seen for many, many months. Not an awkward handshake or man-hug, but a full on hug of joy at seeing one another. I'm reminded of Jesus who also was not afraid to touch and reach out to people, even those with horrible skin diseases. I was ashamed.
I'm willing to serve the poor, and study poverty, and work on dismantling systems of oppression, but am I willing to HUG?