A few months ago I was walking through the back streets of Woolloomooloo past a group of blokes, when one of them asked me to come over. In Woolloomooloo, this can be an unpredictable situation.
Once I was threatened with a rock, and another time it was suggested that my journey to heaven be fast-tracked. More often than not though, it’s just like any other community: people want to ask directions, or talk about the great Roosters win. It might be to ask for a few coins, or to ask for a cigarette, and that was the case this day.
‘Are you from Housing?’ I was asked. I was suddenly very aware that my attire must have looked like that of a friendly middle-aged public servant. ‘No, I’m from HopeStreet – can I help you blokes with anything?’ An exchange ensued:
‘As a matter of fact you can – I need two things.’
‘And they would be …?’ I asked.
‘I need a hug and a fridge.’
Taken aback, I said, ‘A hug and a fridge? Is that what you said?’
‘Indeed I did.’
I proceeded to reach out and offer the man a hug.
Now I’m a pretty good hugger but he quickly stated ‘C’mon man, you can do better than that!’ So I held the man closer and squeezed a little tighter.
We finished our hug and the man thanked me. I told him that the fridge might be a tougher proposition than the hug, but I’d do my best using the resources of our fabulous HopeStreet team.
Ever since that day, I haven’t been able to get that phrase out of my mind – ‘a hug and a fridge’. It struck me as being a request profoundly reflective of the life of Christ and the gospel we proclaim: God’s affection and God’s closeness to us, drawing near to us, loving us and calling us to a relationship with Him. But more than that – not just a love that’s expressed verbally, emotionally or physically, but love expressed in giving something real and tangible – the gift of his Son.
It reminded me as well of the kind of man God wants me to be to others, where I reach out to people with kindness, gentleness and grace, not seeking anything in return, not my agenda but his or hers, to deliver a simple message about a God who loves them.
Alongside the ability to reach out to others comes a willingness to give and to give generously, to be prepared to sacrifice possessions, time and money; a willingness to be the heart, hands and feet of Jesus and to minister to all the needs of the person in front of you; to give ‘a hug and a fridge’.
HopeStreet works in tough but wonderful communities. One of the great paradoxes of the people we work alongside is that many of them would readily give me the shirt off their back, as the saying goes.
Please pray for HopeStreet, and support us as we endeavour to metaphorically distribute ‘hugs and fridges’, on your behalf to those living on the margins of the inner city of Sydney.
We need you to join us in being the heart, hands and feet of Jesus to people in need in our city. To keep the doors of HopeStreet open, we need you to become a monthly donor; even if you can only afford a small amount per month it will still make a difference. Remember, if we all do our little bit, together we can achieve a lot!