People Matter Because They Exist

“What makes Love Wins different?”

I was in my office last week with a reporter doing a story on the “Polar Vortex” sweeping the East Coast, driving temps down into single digits. Specifically, about how the drop in temperature affected people who live outside.

After the interview, he asked the question, almost offhandedly.

“What makes Love Wins different?”

I don’t really remember what I said, honestly. The question makes me uncomfortable – it is an invitation to bash your colleagues, to criticize other people, to puff your organization up. I hope I said something appropriate and mannerly.

But since then, I have been thinking about the question, and I think the answer I should have given is something like this:

“Simple: What makes us different is that we reject the premise behind this interview. Because the premise of this interview is that there is a story around people not being safe when it is cold outside. Or, put another way, these people are of interest because of this cold snap.

But we refuse to believe that Kenny is of interest only because it turns cold, or that people who live in shelters should be fed by church groups only when the calendar says it is the holidays, or even that ‘the poor’ are a people group your church should have a ‘mission’ to. We believe that God calls us to relationship with the poor not because the poor need to be in relationship with us, but because we need to be in relationship with them.

We believe, and put action to that belief, that my friend Kenny, who lives under a bridge, that Danny, who lives at the shelter, that Mary, who lives in her car and has not left it in eight years, that they are all made in the very image of God, just like you are.

Because to believe that means that you don’t just share your food with Danny when it’s Christmas, and you don’t do it to teach your kid that giving is a good thing. It means you share your food with Danny because he is valuable. Because he matters.

It means recognizing that the time to start worrying about how people survive outside isn’t when it’s nine degrees outside, but when you learn that anyone sleeps outside – even if it is warm and temperate.

It means being Mary’s friend, and listening to her stories and crying with her when her son gets arrested and laughing at her jokes and telling her some of yours, all of which she laughs at to be polite even though they are not all that funny. It means doing all of that when both you and Mary know she is never going to ‘get better’ and that one day she is going to die in that car. And while not liking that, it means being ok with it, because Mary loves you just like you are, so the least you can do is return the favor.

If there is anything that makes us different, it is simply that we think people matter. Not because of their potential for change, but because they exist.”

Related: People Are Not Objects


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Hugh Hollowell

Author: Hugh Hollowell

Hugh is a Mennonite minister and the founding director of Love Wins. He likes peanut M&Ms.