The Canadian Press issued a story last week based on a Hamilton Paramedics January 20 tweet about receiving several emergency calls from concerned citizens for a homeless person on a park bench. The story was picked up by several media outlets. You can read CBC’s article of the emergency calls or The Hamilton Spectator’s piece about the unveiling of the statue of Jesus sleeping on a park bench.
That’s right. It wasn’t a homeless person. It was a bronze statue by St Jacob artist Timothy Schmalz commissioned by St Patrick’s Church, and paid for by an anonymous donor, to draw attention to the plight of the homeless, hungry, and hurting in Hamilton. Copies of the statue have also been placed in cities all over the world. The strategy seems to be working. People are drawn to it—especially when they find out it’s Homeless Jesus.
I’m not sure who actually came up with the idea of Homeless Jesus. But it was genius.
There’s something about the combination of a homeless person and Jesus that strikes a chord with people everywhere. Even though there may be elements of Christianity or religion that may have turned a lot of people off over the years, people continue to be drawn to the person of Jesus. We seem to be able to push beyond the distractions and see the caring loving heart of Jesus, the man who walked first century Palestine.
No one likes to think of a person having to sleep on a park bench, especially on a cold winter night. Our heart aches for them. Making the homeless person Jesus immediately amplifies everything. It awakens our imagination to respond, to want to help because we know that’s what Jesus’ message was about—caring for others—loving others.
It’s unfortunate that we live in a world where there are people who somehow find themselves homeless, hungry, and hurting. I wish it wasn’t the case, but it’s a reality of our world.
Because it’s so doesn’t mean we have to accept it. We can do something about it. We can show we care in so many different ways. We can get involved with a group that advocates for the homeless. We can volunteer at shelter or food bank. We can urge our city to be proactive about addressing homelessness and poverty. Whether or not homelessness and poverty remain a reality of our cities is in our hands. I’m proud that my city, Hamilton, is taking action by being involved in the national 20,000 Homes campaign. Just one of its initiatives to address poverty.
There’s are several movements across Canada that are attempting to draw attention to the needs of the homeless, hungry, and hurting in our cities. One of them is Coldest Night of the Year. They have a walk on February 20 that you can participate in. There are walks in cities across Canada. You can show your support by sponsoring a walker, like me or someone on my team, or you can actually walk.
It’s easy for us to be moved by Homeless Jesus and the thought of the homeless, hungry, and hurting among us. What’s more challenging is choosing to be part of finding a solution. Harness the emotion and passion the strife of others awakens in you. Take action. Regardless of how small it might seem—do something.