by Abigail H., BSN student
The streets of San Francisco overwhelmed me at first. Trash lined the curbs. Urine painted the sidewalks yellow. Odious smells invaded my nose with each step I took. And right there on the sidewalks were so many people–from every color and every background–drinking, doing drugs, sleeping, living.
I could barely look at the people because my heart kept breaking: this is reality for them. They live on the street, they’re addicted, they’re mentally ill, they can’t find a job…this is what they face day in, day out.
I didn’t have to pray for God to “break my heart for what breaks His.” Instead, I had to ask God what to do with my broken heart.
And in an instant, God answered my prayer in an unlikely way: through cups of coffee.
With a stack of styrofoam cups, a thermos of steaming coffee, and a guitar in tow, we joined one of the YWAM San Fran staff in handing out coffee to the people who live on the street.
As we began to sing worship songs, passersby stopped to listen and share a cup of coffee with us. An older man, Arthur, asked to play the guitar. After a moment of hesitation, we let him and, wow, he really knew how to play!
“I’m an atheist,” he said abruptly. “What are you guys doing out here with the music and the coffee?”
“We love Jesus and want to sing about him,” my friend said. “And we thought people would like to have some coffee. You and I share a love for music, though. You’re definitely welcome to hang out with us.”
Arthur stayed for a while longer, sipping on his steaming cup of coffee.
Even more people stopped by to chat. One woman invited us to pray at a memorial service for a homeless man who had died on the nearby train track. We went with her and prayed for her and for the man’s friends who were grieving his death.
God broke open my heart as I simply listened to God’s people instead of walking past them. God has opened my eyes to see the beauty and community behind my initial discomfort in the city.
The people who live among the trash, the smells, the brokenness are people with stories to tell. Their past hurts have taught them to survive and deal with life on the streets now.
But they are precious people, which I only saw by taking the time to look them in the eyes, to smile, and to listen. I’m glad to see that God is doing a lot in the city of San Francisco. You just have to look.