Some of today’s worst homelessness is not found with folks camping on the streets; though you would think so if you watched Fox News, CNN or even your own local station. Here in the USA there are 1.5 million people living in long term care institutions, who while they are not out out on the street are certainly not living at home. Though for the most part they are fed and clothed; they struggle with loneliness; depression and even bitterness as much as anyone in a encampment. The answer to this part of the homeless crisis will never be found unless we as a society and more importantly; we as the church of Jesus Christ begin to ask the right question. One of the most famous stories of Jesus resulted from the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Instead we need to be asking “Who is my family?” Family is the first place we should be able to find help and the last place we should be rejected but sadly in 21st century western society this is becoming more and more uncommon. But God values family and especially the most fragile members of it so highly that he packed one of His Ten Commandments together with a promise if we kept it.
Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you. Deuteronomy 5:16
Some one once said that what matters is not how many years are in our life but how much life is in our years. Years spent alone in a long term care facility may be necessary for the physical care of some of our family members; but it cannot be a substitute for family. The United States Department on Aging tells us 70% of our seniors on long term care never receive a single visit all year. As a long time chaplain in many different Nursing Homes I can attest to the fact that if we raised the number from 0 visits to just three per year it would sadly include more than 90% of Mothers and Fathers struggling through their final chapters alone.
Remember Jesus said that being a true neighbor was not about living next door to someone but about showing compassion. The same holds true for family. You might not have a Mom or Dad in long term care but there are plenty there who would be delighted if you treated them like family. This week why not peel away a little time from the TV and ask our Father in Heaven how you can be a son or daughter to someone alone whose family is not there.