Drive By Missions
I was surprised this morning that one of my posts, “Homeless Veterans – An Overview of the Problem” had suddenly taken off. More than 30 times as many viewers as is normal for the past month. Then I became a little curious and checked my StatCounter site and found that all but a very few, more than 90 percent registered a “0 second” visit time. Uh Oh – “Drive By Viewing“. A commercial site had mentioned, with all good intentions, that this was a good post and therefore highly recommended it. I looked up the site. Every click on my site for that post was referred back to an advertisement for the host service, not the site recommending mine.
That site is being charged 5 cents per click. They are being charged “through the nose” for the clicks they send me, but they apparently are mostly not real clicks. Perhaps 1 in 10 are actually visiting my site, but the host is sending me clicks for every visitor that clicks on their site and I get fake views and the site gets charged a nickel per view, fake or real. The person that recommended me thinks he/she is doing good in their recommendation, and I’m appreciative for the 10% that actually look in, but it is mostly drive-by accounting on the part of their host that bothers me. They think they are doing good but I’m getting drive by views.
That made me think about drive by missions – mission trips to the homeless that are, in effect, drive by missions- well intentioned but mostly fake. I’m talking about the many that want to help out, but do so from the window of their car, or a few steps outside. They drive up, hand out a small baggie of goodies and then take off, looking for another homeless person to mission to, all the while feeling good about themselves.
The homeless person looks up from his bench and sees a half dozen well dressed people headed his way and thinks “Uh Oh – Drive By Mission“. Within a few seconds, he is handed a baggie with comb, soap, wash cloth, and maybe a candy bar or two; the baggie often stapled to a religious tract. A few halting words, a “God Bless You!” and they are off. “They didn’t even ask my name!”
The same people would not toss a few coins in the cup of a panhandler nor offer to buy a sandwich for a homeless person outside of a McDonalds. Nor would they actually engage a homeless person in small talk. Too much to ask. But collectively they get up enough courage to take a token gift to a few homeless people they find as they drive around. That way their fellow group members all get to know how good they each are and they feel they have done their duty for the year, all the while exercising safety in numbers.
Helping the homeless is much more than that. It means being active in an organization that helps the homeless or picking the homeless up and bringing them to church, asking them to break bread together (at the same table). It means donating folding money, it means volunteering at a homeless shelter or going out to the bridges and taking food, clothing, blankets and socks. It means holding meaningful conversations, finding out what each needs and promising to come back (and actually doing so) on a regular basis.
It means writing your congressman, your local United Way, your newspaper, and promoting through writing some legislation or program or understanding that benefits the homeless. It means speaking out to help a shelter remain open or a tent city to remain, or keeping a small encampment from being removed. It means helping the dislocated homeless when they are chased out of their sanctuary in the woods or under a bridge.
It means showing respect and compassion for the homeless and also taking up for them when someone calls them “bums” and promotes “running them out of town.” It means educating yourself on what causes homelessness, what works and what doesn’t work, and making sure the city and/or county leaders know your position and expectation that they will find a way to help. Sometimes it means riding around in a church bus or van on cold nights and rounding up the homeless to take them to a shelter, or knitting hats and scarves for cold winter days, purchasing “sun showers” (solar heated water bags) for camps and also sometimes putting someone up in a motel or rooming house for a period of time.
I’m sure the homeless are appreciative of the goody bags, sandwich or tract, but there is so much more that could be done if the same people had put the same energy into actually stopping and asking what is needed after some meaningful conversation. Then supply that need, even if it means serving only half as many drive bys.