Sanford Small Group Leaders: Ostrich or Ignorance?
Sanford, Florida has been in the news a lot lately. Last year CBS told us of a nationwide epidemic that’s taken hold in our backyard; homeless children who live in cars, cramped in the backseat while parked underneath bridges and light poles in Wall Mart parking lots. This year the national media, happy to have found their new “Casey Anthony story” descended on Sanford to begin their endless coverage of Trayvon Marten.
For a small town (the population is just over 50,000) they sure have their share of big city problems. So we spent a day in Sanford looking to see if we could help find some solutions.
What we found was far more alarming.
It was mid-afternoon, and extremely hot. So we didn’t expect to find many homeless folks out and about. Instead, we thought it might be a good idea to stop at a church, and inquire as to how exactly we may be of some help in the days and weeks to come.
We passed several small “mom-and-pop” churches, but settled instead, on a large one just a mile or two outside Sanford’s Historic District. Surely, with a congregation so large, they’d be able to point us in the right direction. Turns out, stopping there was point-less!
Not only did they not know where the homeless were, they gave us the impression the problem no longer existed.
“Oh, they tore a bunch of buildings down, so they just scattered.” One lady told us. “They’re all gone now.” She said, with a wave of her hand, as though she was swatting away a fly. Making it sound as if the homeless suddenly just left town, walking south towards Orlando in great masses.
When we mentioned the CBS story, another lady had an answer all ready to go. “That girl in that news piece? Well, she got all taken care of. Got a full-ride to Stetson.” She said satisfied, as if the Sanford homeless problem was instantly eradicated with a single individual’s enrollment to university.
Perhaps we just expected a little more…our sanitized version of Christianity, putting on our “Sunday best,” listening to sermons and paying our tithing. Maybe that image just got in the way of what we expected. But these problems that exist in our communities…they’re real. They’re dirty. And if we’re going to address them – if we’re going to clean them up – then we need to move. We need to sweat. We need to get our hands dirty. Pretending they don’t exist, or simply wishing the problem away makes as much sense as putting a band aid on a broken arm.