Written By Lou Mergler

It started with a prayer…

Years ago at an arena speaking event, I heard from and connected with City Relief.  Their work in and around my hometown resonated with me deeply, as I had just come to experience homelessness in a whole new way.  I was deeply moved, so much so that I felt compelled to introduce myself as soon as possible–I approached the stage immediately following the presentation.  Josiah, a long-time veteran with City Relief met me just as he was finishing with his testimony and presentation.  He listened, connected with my story, and prayed over me.  His selflessness contrasted with his spotlight, lending authenticity to the cause and giving weight to his generosity.  I wanted to be a part of it, to assume the responsibility of servitude.

About 2-3 years before meeting Josiah, I began to better understand what home insecurity feels like.  The anxiety resulting from uncertainty, from not knowing how long you will have a roof over your head, if you’ll have enough food for the week.  No, I did not come to know this personally, though I often wondered if I could withstand this condition myself and at times prayed to take this burden from my loved one.  It was through the experience of my father that I came to understand this desperate state of survival.  And in this state, at the side of my father, I felt and understood the depth and value of compassion for all around us.  In late 2014, I began to further manifest this compassion through my first experience serving with City Relief and contributing a piece of my heart to their cause of compassion.

I soon became a regular at City Relief.  From my first experience, I felt pride and awe at the ability of a few united in giving to create community and radically bring love to the streets.  This would also be my first time praying over others, others who sought me in moments of hopelessness as I had sought Josiah.  There were times when the soup and bread we served was my only meal for the day, when the many faces of men and women humbled by their daily reality viscerally reminded me of my father’s uncertain living situation.  The process was profound, redeeming in a sense.  Through the countless conversations and literal breaking of bread with our brothers and sisters on the streets of the south Bronx and elsewhere, I gained a much broader perspective on my own life and struggles.

Compassion is powerful; it is providing hope through love.  To be without a home is to lack security, often to live invisibly.  Uncertainty breeds fear, which when sustained can lead to hopelessness.  In humanizing each other, sharing our stories and our wisdom, we access the Infinite, we become the substance of hope itself.  Never underestimate the consequence of compassion.

By: Lou Mergler