I missed out on a prime ministry opportunity this weekend.
My wife and I decided to take a pit stop to downtown Chicago on our way back home to South Dakota over Memorial Weekend. We did the usual tourist stops: Navy Pier, Giordano’s Pizza, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, Millennium Park, The Bean, Intelligentsia Coffee, completely overpaying for parking. But as soon as you venture outside the tourist spots, it’s only a matter of time before you run into Chicago’s homeless population.
Homeless people have the innate ability to know exactly where pedestrian traffic is the heaviest so they may snag as much attention as they can. Sure enough, as we approached our intersection, waiting for the signal to cross the street, there stood a homeless man: begging, with a plastic, change-filled soft drink cup, reciting his story, hoping people will donate their spare change to his cause – survival.
And no one sees him. No one. I mean, people see him. But they don’t see him. They choose to pretend he’s not even there.
I wasn’t even pressed to give him money. I was pressed just to notice him… To say hello, to learn his name, to encourage him, to pray with him. There was more than enough time while we waited for our signal to cross the street. It would’ve been a prime ministry opportunity – not just to the homeless man, but even to those standing by observing.
Yet I chose not to see him.
We are so blind—and we intentionally choose to be. Never before in humanity’s history have we been given the power to see what we only want to see, and drown out the rest.
Just a half hour before I encountered the homeless man, Kasey and I stopped by The Bean. I was astounded by the massive crowd who surrounded this giant amorphous metal sculpture that resembles the core ingredient to your grandma’s famous chili recipe. Yet what perplexed me the most was nearly everyone had their phones out (including myself). They stood far away to capture the Bean from afar, they outstretched their arms to take a selfie with their loved one, they got up close to the concaveness of the sculpture to take a pic of the their distorted reflections. Everyone seemed to be in their own little world, completely oblivious to the hundreds of people around them. Everyone had to capture the moment so they could look at it later, rather than be present in the moment so they could actually see it now.
The cell phone has become our eyes through which we view our world. We raise our head up long enough to snap a photo of what we want to see, all to bring our head back down again to edit its color settings, share it on Instagram, be bombarded with notifications, all to get lost in the sea of a newsfeed tailored to what we want to see, and ignore the homeless man standing right beside us…
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See a homeless person that totally ruptures your world view? Keep your head down. Use your sunglasses to your advantage. See what you only choose to see. Drown in the sea of your personal preference. Then maybe your intentional blindness will enable you, too, to miss an opportunity to do good right in front of you….
Lord Jesus, grant us eyes to see.