taking the words of Jesus seriously

Day in and day out-for years-he came into our kitchen holding a can of soup, slowly opening it and then eating it directly out of the container, cold.  

At first we would lovingly say, “Richard, why don’t you let us heat that up for you?” to which he would reply, “no, no this will do.” Eventually, we resigned ourselves to simply handing him the can opener, seemingly the only assistance he would receive. 

He sleeps in his van; it is dark and dank and has a small hole that he drilled in just above the right wheel well so he can use the bathroom at night.  

Sometimes in the morning after he shuffles from the street through our door, he turns to greet us and we notice that the night didn’t go so well: his pants are soiled again and yet somehow, he manages a slight smile. Other times, he almost jogs in, leaning straight towards the bathroom but not able to make it before a substance begins to run down his leg. Sometimes he notices, sometimes not.  

We got in the habit of having a clean pair of sweats at the ready, but most often he refused them saying, “what difference does it make?” 

Cold Soup.  

Soiled Pants.  

This will do.  

What difference does it make.  

Years later, Richard shuffles in and asks for his mail… 

After two years of filing it away, the pile I hand him is thick and stacks high, up to his chin. He sits at a table and thumbs through the heap until he pulls out one. His hands shake as he fumbles to open the envelope and unfold the handwritten note within. Minutes pass until he proudly holds up a photograph and loudly proclaims, “This is my eldest son! He is studying Physics!”

He then looks down again saying, “I am going to read this note another time”, hands me his can of soup and asks, “would you mind heating this up?”

As if he had said it a million times before.

About The Author


Sparrow Etter Carlson is a co-founder of Aurora Commons and its Safe, Healthy, Empowered (SHE) Clinic and most recently of Sacred Streets. Sparrow has been living with intention toward her unhoused neighbors since 2002. You can find Sacred Streets online at https://oursacredstreets.com and Aurora Commons at https://www.auroracommons.org.

Related Posts

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.


Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
    Check which Newsletter(s) you'd like to receive:    

You have Successfully Subscribed!