I had the privilege last week to serve for a few hours at a rescue mission for homeless men in a nearby city, and it was quite an experience. Over the last several weeks, I have thought a lot about making this time of year about more than ourselves - about finding ways to honor Christ's birth by honoring others. This poem was born out of that experience at the rescue mission, as indicated by the title.
These are the forgotten, the loathed, the avoided people who Jesus commanded us to love in Matthew 25:40. "I tell you the truth. Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." To God be the glory.
At the Rescue Mission
On the edge of town,
across from the industrial plants
and the piles of broken asphalt,
he leans into the doorway of the lit room,
looking for his usual spot.
A red glare shines on his windburned cheeks
from the fluorescent bulbs above him.
How stoic, how honorable
he seems in the worn denim and
unwashed cotton shirt. He might
just be returning from some
filthy battle, a hero.
He leans his weight into each step,
careful not to wake the other forty
sleeping warriors who litter the floor
all around him.
Each deliberate step brings him closer
to his bed, a thin mat on the cold tiles.
His pillow—a lumpy, yellowed mound—
seems a cotton cloud to him as he
now lays his delicate head against it.
The cares of the day, and of
all the other days,
pass away from him now as he
gathers the exhausted blanket
to his chin and exhales.
In the corner, the workers
shear off thick slices of warm
banana bread onto plates -
soon to be Christmas breakfast
for each and every one
of the least of these.