Seven years ago today, my friend Brother-Sean Rogers passed away from complications with pneumonia. He was a friend and caregiver of the poor, lost, homeless, and disenfranchised. I learned a lot from Sean. Most importantly, I watched him love everyone he met. Everyone. Sean never missed an opportunity to look someone in the eye, tell them that he loved them and that they mattered to him.
Because of how my mind works, I would always want to dialogue with Sean about his experience with people that were dealing with homelessness and try to understand the "how" of what led these amazing people to the unfortunate circumstances they were living in. Not in an attempt to cast judgement, but to understand. He would always (strongly) emphasize that it didn't make any difference. He was absolutely right. As he and I would go around and visit the people he served, he was always hell bent on making sure that I understood that regardless of what those circumstances were, that it really and truly didn't matter because they were still people. Children of God.
I guess Sean knew that it can be easy to sit in our homes, drive by in our cars, and walk by on the way to dinner and think of all kinds of "bad choices" that people may have made, or be making, to land them in that situation. Even if they made bad choices, that doesn't change their worth. Even if they were still choosing terrible things, it doesn't affect their value, dignity or who they are as people. If they smell, or are hurt, or are begging, we need to see that they are people. If they are hungry, drunk, angry, or sick, they are a person first.
In the end, Sean is right. It never, ever mattered how anyone got there. What mattered was the person. What matters is looking people in the eye and telling them that they are loved and that they matter. What matters is recognizing Christ in people. Sean introduced me to a lot of people that I likely would never have met otherwise, and I am grateful for that. Over conversations and sharing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I saw the eyes of Jesus in the people we met. We brought them cheap sandwiches, and they gave us a small glimpse of heaven. Thank God for my stubborn, kind, and goofy friend Sean. If you could, please throw up a quick prayer for him, and the people he served. Recognize the dignity in everyone, and let people know that you love them, and that they matter.
I love you Sean. You matter to me.