The City of Progress Closing the City Underneath

waft
Recently, the news of our city’s Tent City shutting down and several homeless people relocating has been circulating our social media feeds and news pages. At Shattered Magazine, we have a special heart for the folks at Tent City since we did a story on them very early in our existence. (Click here to read our original post, or see below.)
This is a story that evokes strong emotions of every kind, and for me, it also evokes a call to action. Amongst mixed feelings, bickering, and passionate perspectives – we want to encourage each other to focus on what matters – the people. Whether homeless or not, people have a story and their story matters. Ultimately, their story may include having to move locations after enjoying quasi-stability in a rather unstable, homeless existence. Change in life can be scary, and sometimes it is painful, but it should always prompt us to a deeper reliance and dependence on Christ in our lives. Homelessness is not a disease, it is a symptom of a condition – whether it is the tough economy or poor life choices, we as Christians, are not called to judge, but to love. 

No matter which side of the fence you fall on – the “big bad government vs. the lowly pauper” or the “freeloaders vs. those who work” – we should ask ourselves some important questions. What are we doing to love these people? Are we getting involved with local missions that reach out to the homeless? Are we funding the needs of the shelters? Are we going with our small groups to talk to the homeless? Are we offering them the ultimate Hope of belonging found in the gospel of Christ? Let’s face it, it’s not the job of the government to take care of these people, it’s our job. It’s the job of the citizens, the neighbors, the Church. 

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Waft of Smoke Article – Published December 7, 2012

 

It was so cold outside! I spent a fortune in gas; I’m sure, as I warmed up the vehicle before buckling my two precious kiddo cargo into their car seats and getting settled in to go to work and daycare.

It was business as usual for me – a Veggie Tales video on in the background, my thoughts racing with the massive to-do list swirling in my head for the day, pointing out the beautiful things outside for my kids to take in, and enjoying the chance to sit for a minute in the presence of my children. While watching the people around me in their warm cars, in a mad dash to get to work, absorbed in their thoughts, and oblivious to others, a smell of smoke caught my attention.

I love the smell of a good wood fire, but this one piqued my interest as it came from an extremely odd location. Up through the gap in the barriers on Interstate 565 floated a waft of smoke, so out of place and forlorn that it caused me to ponder over its source.

Huntsville, Alabama is a beautiful city. It is known as the City of Progress and is home to an extremely high percentage of engineers and professionals. NASA and the Army are a part of our town and contracting companies surround you everywhere you go in support of these two major government programs. The skyline of Huntsville is perhaps most recognized by the rockets standing at attention against a backdrop of evergreen trees next to the Space and Rocket Museum. The grass and trees are impeccably landscaped around the city, and the fall is extremely gorgeous with beautiful oranges, reds, and yellows peppering the valley. Many people enjoy Huntsville as a great place to live and to raise a family.

But that waft of smoke rising through the center barriers of the highway on an abnormally and frigidly cold November day spoke of something else . . .

Below that beautiful exterior, hidden from every angle so that no one would ever know they exist, is the City of Tents. Sanctioned by the City of Progress as a legitimate place for people in need of somewhere to squat, it serves as an overflow for the burdened system that tries to keep up with the homeless and jobless in Huntsville.

Men, women, and children find refuge here in tents. Old, discarded, and broken furniture are arranged neatly outside of “homes” where all of the people’s earthly possessions are organized. Local businesses provide water from their hose faucets for the occasional bath and daily drink. Local churches, food banks, and missions provide enough meals to keep them fed most days. There are some who are hopeful things will change, while others are resigned to the life they are living – a tangible line between the optimist and pessimist exists. These people have been broken and beaten by life, and they have come together to try to survive. They have formed their own little community. The Bible, to some, is a constant source of comfort and encouragement – their daily bread.

The images below the highway might break your heart or they might put you off, depending on your point of view, but the truth of the matter is that there are people hurting down there – whatever the reason, we do not know. We are not called to judge the reason for their struggles; we are called to love the hurting.

That little waft of smoke helped to jolt me out of my daily routine and remind me that I need to break out of my comfort zone and look below the surface to see who is there I might help. Even if it is just in my own life, with people I know, I can never judge a situation by what is showing on the outside.

Lord, help us all pay attention to the little “wafts of smoke” in our own lives. May we bless You by blessing others.

To find out more about the local story, see WHNT News 19′s article here. 

Rachael Jackson
Rachael is seriously passionate about sharing the love of Christ and the power found in a relationship with Him. She is also passionate about her kids, her husband Shane, and soaking in as much life as possible. Oh, and she will tell you the truth about anything... just ask her.

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