Exhausting Yet Rewarding

Working with the homeless is exhausting and frustrating work. It requires heroic good will, and a deep and prophetic faith. Yet, at the same time it is profoundly rewarding and gives birth to a deeper awareness of self and love of God. I never imagined that spending six months on the streets of Skid Row while making my film Rescue Me [in 2005] would teach me more about spirituality than homelessness. While walking those mean streets, where at the time more than 11,000 people, including hundreds of children, live in cardboard boxes, tent and in overcrowded missions, I frequently encountered deep-seeded anger and hostility. A woman threw a bottle at me; it landed at my feet and shattered into hundreds of pieces of flying glass. A guy threatened to hit me with a metal pipe. A shadowy figure emerged from the darkness yielding a baseball bat in a very threatening manner. These and other scary moments made me angry. At first, it was easy and natural to harshly judge a hostile homeless person. Slowly I learned not to do so. Instead of judging, I learned to look at their hostility differently.

They are simply having a hard time trying to find happiness and avoid suffering, and it just so happened that when they were going about doing so, I got in the way. When I learned to see myself in the homeless person, my anger at their attacking me began to melt away. I learned that my love of God required me to take a stance of gentleness, reverence and respect in my attitude toward all other beings. I especially needed to cultivate respectful and gentle mindfulness of the needs of the poor. And the more time you spent with the chronically poor, the easier that becomes.

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1 Response to “Exhausting Yet Rewarding”


  1. 1 krebsjoan January 15, 2016 at 12:25 pm

    “When I came to see myself in the homeless person….” dualism no longer exists. Only harmony, unity, solidarity. Thanks Gerry. Today I happened on this parody of Marshall McLuhan’s theme: “The medium is STILL the message.” Today you put life into it. Thank you. .


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