By Dr. Kevin Thomas —
A few years ago, I heard about the dozens of cities across our nation that ban food sharing. In those locations, it is a misdemeanor offense to share food in public spaces with homeless people. Perhaps leaders are afraid free food will encourage homelessness (faulty logic at best), or more realistically, they may be afraid that public food sharing will bring the problem out into the light of day. City parks filled will homelessness is an embarrassment to mayors and city councils who want to pretend their cities are healthier than they are. Such ordinances cover up problems rather than heal them.
At my wife’s request, she and I went out to investigate the situation in person. We visited Linn Park in Birmingham on a Saturday afternoon to meet the people that suffer the ill effects of these city ordinances. We discovered delightful people! We asked about their access to food. We listened to their stories. Some were not technically homeless. They used their entire incomes to cover rent and utilities. They were trying to be responsible, but after paying the bills, there simply was not enough money left for groceries. So, they eat daily in the park because of someone’s generosity. Others spent their nights on park benches. Life’s circumstances, and sometimes poor choices, left them with no more than they could carry in a paper bag. Food from generous people keeps them alive. None of them asked us for anything. They thanked us for the conversation, for treating them with dignity and respect. They are people, valuable treasures created in the image of God.
And, God cares for them. Included in God’s instructions for how to live in the Promised land were these verses from Leviticus, “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the lord your God” (19:9-10). Jesus echoes the sentiment when He tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Being a Christian is about more than repeating a prayer and assenting to some basic tenets of the faith. Christ followers love and serve the least, the last, and the lost; for in serving them, we serve Christ.